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KC mom of trans girl Avery Jackson challenges Betsy DeVos to ‘provide real leadership’

A KC mom of a trans daughter speaks with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, challenging her to provide more protections for LGBT students.
A KC mom of a trans daughter speaks with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, challenging her to provide more protections for LGBT students.

Betsy DeVos isn’t doing enough to protect and support the transgender population, a Kansas City mother whose daughter is trans wrote recently.

The mother, Debi Jackson, took her complaints straight to the source: She spoke directly with the education secretary to encourage her to “provide real leadership” to vulnerable and marginalized youths, who she wrote are being dangerously disregarded by the federal government and DeVos.

Jackson’s daughter galvanized her to start advocating for the LGBT community, and she now works as a family organizer for the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Her understanding of the trans community in the KC area encouraged her to seek an interview with the education secretary after she visited Kansas City last month. That request led to a phone conversation last week between DeVos and Jackson, the latter wrote recently on Medium.

“I challenged DeVos to provide real leadership that says the most vulnerable youth are going to be protected and not further marginalized by our government,” Jackson wrote.

She wrote of the injustices faced by trans youth and lamented the Trump administration’s rescinding protections for trans students that had allowed them to use bathrooms and locker rooms correlating to their gender identity.

She warned DeVos of the dangers facing trans students like her daughter — who appeared on the cover of National Geographic and has been the subject of coverage by The Star.

Jackson told DeVos she fears her daughter could become the victim of bullying, exclusion and violence because of her identity.

trans devos
Avery Jackson of Kansas City is a transgender 9-year-old profiled in a Star story in 2014. Her mother, Debi Jackson, challenged Betsy DeVos to provide more protections for LGBT students like her daughter. Jill Toyoshiba jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

“Children like my daughter are dying for nothing more than being themselves,” she wrote.

And she spoke about the insults hurled at LGBT students at Olathe schools, including an incident at last month’s Olathe Northwest High homecoming parade in which students reportedly chanted, “Make Olathe Northwest straight again.”

All of this in an attempt to convince the education secretary that marginalized students deserved protections and consideration. But DeVos made no promises, Jackson wrote.

“DeVos and Education Department officials ... refuse to say clearly that the law protects (LGBT students) or that they will actually do anything about the discrimination children like mine face,” she wrote. “We need every transgender child those who have already come out and those who are just trying to find their courage and their voice to proclaim who they are to hear it so they will know they are valued, seen, and protected.

“I didn’t hear any promises from Sec. DeVos, but she needed to hear what I had to say. I am determined to keep telling my family’s story and the stories of families and children like mine and to make this world a more loving place for them.”

Avery Jackson, 9, of Kansas City says National Geographic shows that transgender people do exist, and the world can't ignore them.

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

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