When An Anti-LGBT Group Shut Down A Reading, They Accidentally Started A Tradition

"This experience has shown me we all have the power to create change."

In 2015, a 6-year-old girl in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin came out as transgender. To help make the child feel comfortable and accepted her mom, Sarah, worked with the elementary school and planned to host a reading of I Am Jazz. The book, which is co-authored by trans youth ambassador Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel, discusses gender identity and was seen as a good way to help students understand the subject.

Though the people of Mount Horeb embraced the idea, an anti-LGBTQ law group based outside the small town called Liberty Council, got wind of the reading and was able to shut it down by putting pressure on the school. According to Upworthy, that's when Mount Horeb resident and mom Amy Lyle stepped in to help. 



"I wanted to stand up for love," Lyle tells A Plus. "More specifically, I wanted to demonstrate support for a little girl in our community who is transgender and her family and to show them that our family supported them." 

Though Lyle didn't know Sarah or her daughter, she hated the idea that a bigoted group of people were able to silence a child and cancel something she, and many others, had been looking forward to. Determined for the reading to go on as planned, Lyle reserved a room at the local library so she could host the reading there instead. "I wanted them to know that our family and others in our community supported them 100% and that the Liberty Counsel did not speak for us," she explains.

As Lyle recalled in a video for the Human Rights Campaign, she was only expecting about two dozen people, at most, to show up, so imagine her surprise when the event was attended by hundreds. "People just kept streaming in, and finding spots on the ground, in between stacks of books, packed ten deep," Lyle said in the video. "Nearly 600 people showed up at the library that night."

That initial event in 2015, seen above, has since become part of a national initiative to support transgender youth, and Lyle couldn't be more pleased. "That this has grown to become a national movement is beyond anything I could have ever hoped or imagined," she tells A Plus. "It really was a village, our Mount Horeb village, that came together to stand up to hate and stand up for love in support this child and all children in our community, and that gives me great hope, especially during these times. This experience has shown me that we all have the power to create change.  Any one of us can truly make a difference larger than we ever imagined."  

Thanks to some help from the Human Rights Campaign people around the country now host their own I Am Jazz readings each year, and this year's event — scheduled for December, 7, 2017 — is expected to be bigger than ever with more than 400 readings planned in support of trans kids. "People are looking for ways to make a positive impact and stand up for what they believe in, especially when so many rights are under attack," Lyle notes.  "It truly can be as simple as organizing the reading of a children's book to show support, and anyone can do that!"

In addition to creating a wave of I Am Jazz readings around the country, Amy's actions two years ago inspired further change at home as well. "The Mount Horeb Area School District adopted inclusive facilities use policies and added gender identity to the district's nondiscrimination policy, which was a wonderful lasting change that will positively impact all students in the years to come," she tells A Plus.

Still, Lyle is well aware there is still work to be done to ensure wider acceptance of trans children. 

"I wish that people better understood that trans and gender expansive children are all of our children, and all children are deserving of love and support, without exception," she states. "I also want people to understand that because of the misinformation and negative societal messages these kids receive about the essence of who they are, we must go above and beyond to support trans and gender expansive children, especially children and youth of color. The risks of physical abuse and violence, the negative impacts on mental health that they face are so much greater than any child should ever have to bear, and that is unacceptable."  

"We have to keep educating, standing up, speaking out and doing everything we can to protect our trans and gender expansive youth," Lyle concludes. "The best way to create change and grow compassionate people, is to start with young children. Young children get it."

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