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Family Matters: What Helps Black Trans Kids Thrive

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Credit: Courn Ahn Caption: Original Art featuring an illustration of two people of color, an adult comforting/embracing a child/young adult.

Original Art featuring an illustration of two people of color, an adult comforting/embracing a child/young adult. Credit: Courn Ahn

Kids are coming out as LGBTQ+ younger than ever before, making their identities more politicized than ever before. Hateful political rhetoric and discriminatory laws are likely contributing to the poor mental health documented among LGBTQ+ kids.

In an effort to combat these struggles, researchers are studying what works to keep kids healthy, happy, and alive. In this episode, we discuss data around what might be working to prevent suicidality among Black trans youth, and we hear about a program helping parents learn how to support their LGBTQ+ kids through their own behavior changes.


  • Dr. Myeshia Price, Associate Professor at Indiana University in the Human Development program within the Department of Counseling & Educational Psychology and Associate Research Scientist with the Kinsey Institute.
  • Flomichelle Battles, Interim Executive Director of Trans Solutions Research and Resource Center
  • Dr. Caitlin Ryan, Director of the Family Acceptance Project

Episode Credits:

  • Host: Amy Gastelum
  • Producers: Anita Johnson, Salima Hamirani, Amy Gastelum, and Lucy Kang
  • Executive Director: Jina Chung
  • Editor: Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong
  • Engineer: Jeff Emtman 
  • Digital Media Marketing: Anubhuti Kumar


  • Jason Shaw – Available via WFMU Free Music Archive at
    • Bird in Hand
    • River Meditation
    • Solo Acoustic Guitar



Show Button: The system is, in too many ways, broken. The way we see the world shapes the way that we treat it. This is making contact.

Amy Gastelum: I’m Amy Gastelum. This is Making Contact. Last week, we brought you a story about one Hoosier family’s journey to continue their 11-year-old daughter, Kirin’s gender affirming medical care, now that Indiana has banned it for minors. In that story, we talked a lot about what regular old community members, like yourself, can do to support gender diverse youth despite increasing discriminatory laws.

Today, we’re bringing you the second in this two-part series about trans [00:01:00] youth and their survival. You remember Dr. Myeshia Price. She was featured in last week’s story. She’s an Associate Professor in the Human Development Program at Indiana University as part of the Counseling and Ed Psych Department. She’s also an Associate Research Scientist at the Kinsey Institute. And, Dr. Price is also a parent to a gender fluid child and holds an identity as both Black and queer herself. Dr. Price studies mental health of LGBTQ + youth.

Dr. Myeshia Price: The area that I want to focus on now is what can we do about resilience in LGBTQ young people? While we can do something politically, like we can vote, we can support politicians who are going to pass legislation that’s going to protect our young people, I don’t know that that change is going to come tomorrow. And so my take on this is we have to do something to keep our young people alive today.

Amy Gastelum: Dr. Price is the perfect [00:02:00] person to ask about a data point that emerged from the Trevor Project’s 2023 National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ + Youth. But before we get to that specific data point, I need to give you some background.

Okay, the Trevor Project is an organization that started 25 years ago to prevent suicide in LGBTQ+ youth. Their programs include a 24/7 crisis line, advocacy, research, peer support, education, and public awareness. The mental health survey is an almost 30,000 strong convenience sample of LGBTQ+ youth. These kids found the survey online. That limits who it’s going to represent. It’s not as generalizable as population-based data like the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, or YRBS, but it helps us understand what might be happening in various subgroups of the umbrella LGBTQ+ youth population.

Suicidality is a big problem for LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans and non-binary youth. [00:03:00] The CDC’s YRBS shows that 1 in 3 trans respondents attempted suicide in the year prior. 1 in 3. But the YRBS doesn’t break down the demographics on trans youths in terms of other identities. So, like kids who are both trans and Native, for example, a very vulnerable group.

The Trevor Project designed their survey to be able to sort of home in on various subgroups. And here’s the data point I wanted to ask Dr. Price about. The survey showed that for respondents who are both Black and trans, having the support of their families of origin was a significant protective factor for suicidality. I asked Dr. Price if she could make a guess about why family support is so important for this group.

Dr. Myeshia Price: Yeah, family support is particularly protective for Black, trans, and non-binary young people. And while I don’t have all the answers for why it’s important, I haven’t been able to explore that in any specific detail, [00:04:00] my sort of working theory about that is that within the Black community, family is valued, and having the support of your family is something that a lot of young people, um, sort of hold as something that is, is invaluable to them. And so, once that support is taken away, it’s sort of like all of your support network is gone, right? And so it’s, there are so many things that are sort of passed down in terms of how you can, um, Black resiliency, Black resilience, if that makes sense, is sort of passed down. When you think about all of the hardships that the Black community has experienced over the years, and more recent than I think people like to think it was, particularly compared to the triumphs that the Black community has seen, and the resilience that’s there, that’s something that’s passed down over the generations, right? The things that are taught within the family in terms of how to [00:05:00] overcome racism, um, what to expect and, you know, how to navigate that, you know, could easily be pulled in in terms of that support for being trans and non-binary. And so, when that happens, I think it’s when we see some of these better mental health outcomes, right? So that knowledge is easily transferable. And so, When that happens, I, think, again is my working theory, that we can see a lot of those same skills being used to support them in their, their various identities.

Amy Gastelum: Growing up, Dr. Price says her parents were pretty young and they were busy keeping the family afloat. She says that might be why they sort of let her be her, in many ways.

Dr. Myeshia Price: I look back on the clothes I was wearing and now that I know about children’s clothing, I know those were not girls’ clothes. Some of the clothes I was wearing, um, not all of them, there’s a nice little mixture going on, which is honestly who I am today. But, um. My favorite outfit had to be…I was somewhere [00:06:00] between third and fifth grade, but it was a pair of pants that were blue, like royal blue pants. Um, probably jeans, but and a t-shirt that had someone like baseball players swinging a bat and a blue rectangle around it. And I know that did not come out of the girl’s section. Like, um, and they let me wear that, you know, like my parents were like, fine. Like they stopped picking my clothes out pretty early on. And so, there wasn’t a whole lot of restrictions, um, on what we could wear, how we presented ourselves, and I’m grateful for that, that I could explore, you know, particularly in terms of how I wanted to dress, I would say.

Tape of Amy Gastelum and Flomichelle Battles meeting: Good morning! How are you?

Amy Gastelum: Fifty miles north of Bloomington in Indianapolis, Flomichelle Battles is starting her work week with an interview with me. She leads the organization Trans Solutions Research and Resource Center as their [00:07:00] Interim Executive Director. Trans Solutions is led by and for Black and Brown trans and non-binary people. It’s run out of a former house on a busy east west thoroughfare with a bus line. This place is a gathering spot, a hub. The living room is an open computer lab, and since they have a full bathroom, they allow members to use the shower. They offer education and mentorship to their clients, many of whom are pretty young. Ms. Battles says Trans Solutions is, first, simply a place for Black and Brown trans and non-binary people to exist safely.

Flomichelle Battles: Because you know, safety for a lot of folks in our community is knowing that you can go to a place and you won’t be misgendered, you know. That’s safety. That makes them feel secure. But bigger than that, um, and it’s something that I take very, very seriously, is that I hope that [00:08:00] we’re showing young trans women, young trans men, our non-binary siblings, that we can live normal lives. We can, you know, be out in the world moving around and so I hope that we’re showing them that because the majority of our staff is, you know, trans or non-binary, BIPOC community. So we’re just being examples and sometimes like all people need to, they just need to see it, you know? And know that it’s real and it’s tangible. That right there is making it a safe space.

Amy Gastelum: Their main thing is connecting clients to other community resources. Weekly HIV testing, gender marker and name change support, mental health services, that sort of thing. But this fall, they’re launching a direct service called the Vision Program. Here’s how it works. A client meets with one of Trans Solutions’ Resource Coordinators. They’re sort of like a social worker. [00:09:00] And together, they create an individual success plan. Essentially, it’s a goal a client wants to meet within the next six months. It could be anything.

Flomichelle Battles: It may be, I want to get my high school diploma or my GED in six months. Um, you know, or I really would like to have an office job, but I’m, you know, I’m not good with computers or I’m not good with, you know, word processing or those type of things. And so maybe their goal is that in six months they want to be ready to apply for that office job. And hopefully, it will get the clients in that thought process of okay, this is how I set goals, these are the steps that I take to reach the goals.

Amy Gastelum: Clients learn skills through computer modules that are developed by the Trans Solutions team and produced by a Black trans woman, Imani Sloan. So far, the themes include workforce development, housing, and health and wellness. Some of the modules, like financial literacy, will be mandatory, but the point is to be flexible and include topics [00:10:00] clients really want and need. One life skills module Ms. Battles pitched the team was on how to take your own body measurements to make shopping for clothes easier.

Flomichelle Battles: And at first, you know, everybody was like, well, do we want to really take the time to put this in the educational learning system? And I’m like, absolutely. Because for a lot of trans and non-binary folks, you know, it’s uncomfortable going into the stores and trying things, having to go into the fitting room and try things on, or have a person, you know, measuring you, you know, those, those are uncomfortable situations. And so, we rely heavily on online shopping. Okay. Well, as you know, especially for, you know, the, the femme part of it, you know, a size ten in this brand can fit like a size four in this brand. And so, you know, myself being an introvert, I am a huge online shopper. And so, what I did is I learned to measure myself. So [00:11:00] then I can just go look at measurements. Okay. So I need this size because it’s closest to my measurements. And once I explained that, they was like, wow. Makes a lot of sense

Amy Gastelum: The way you’re describing like coming up with these modules I’m imagining like a bunch of aunties sitting around this table and being like what do our babies need? Very maternal.

Flomichelle Battles: No, absolutely. And that is kind of how some of those beginning conversations worked. You had myself, you had our founder and executive director, Marissa Miller. Um, at the time, you know, we had a program manager that was working that is a trans woman. And then you have myself and Imani. So, it was basically a table of aunties, like, okay, like, what do these babies need? What didn’t we have? What are we trying to figure out now that we can give to them, you know, at 18, at 16 even, you know, so that they don’t have to be in their 40s trying to figure it all out. So, in essence, that kind of is [00:12:00] exactly what it was.

Amy Gastelum: So beautiful. I love that.

Amy Gastelum: This gathering of aunties is common practice in the LGBTQ+ community. Chosen family has always been an important way for LGBTQ+ people to create support systems. But Ms. Battles is welcoming to her clients’ families of origin too. She says some parents of Trans Solutions clients want to know more about what it means to be gender diverse or trans. So they reach out, often via email.

Flomichelle Battles: And they’re like, hey, this is what it is. Like, I, I don’t know what else. And so, you know, we have months of conversations just, you know, hey, let me be a resource as much as I can. And it made me think back to something that my dad was really big on growing up. And it’s that, you know, people can only do what they know how to do. So if they’ve never been shown or if they’ve never been taught a new way, then we can’t expect that from them. [00:13:00] And so for some of these parents, you know, depending, especially when you’re talking about like the Black community, a lot of parents, you know, they have been in the church so deep from, you know, birth. And so they’ve never really encountered… this wasn’t anything that they ever thought would happen to them, you know. But then, you know, here we are and now you have, you know, a 17-year-old that is figuring out who they are. And, you know, you do have those parents that kind of need to be taught how to love their trans or non-binary child.

Amy Gastelum: I asked Ms. Battles what she makes of the Trevor Project Survey showing that almost sixty percent of Black, trans, and non-binary youth respondents seriously considered suicide in the twelve months prior to the survey. Twenty five percent attempted. This is higher than some other groups in the survey.

And [00:14:00] I’m wondering, like, do you have any ideas about why you think that’s happening? Speculation is just fine.

Flomichelle Battles: Well, I will say this, you know, I can definitely see why that number will be much higher, you know, because it can be very rough, disproportionately, for Black and Brown, trans, and non-binary folks. A lot of it starts at home, and a lot of it starts with our own family members. And so, you leave home, or you go out into society from home, that because of your transness, is telling you that you don’t amount to anything or is giving… making sure your life is nothing but hurdles and, and, and struggles. Well, then you walk out into society and where in general, they may be a little more accepting of your transness, [00:15:00] but now you have all these built in hurdles because you’re Black. Or because you’re Brown. And so, you know, stereotypes are thrown on you and, you know, doors are shut in your face, windows are slammed on your fingers. And so like, where do you win? You know, I am, I very much consider myself to be a privileged Black trans woman. Um, and that privilege comes from because, you know, I’ve always had my family’s support. Um, I’ve always been encouraged to be me and do me. So I feel like, again, I use the word privileged because I think I don’t feel like I struggled as much as, you know, a lot of my siblings struggled because I had my safe space, which was my family. So no matter what, if I did go [00:16:00] out into society and somebody said something negative or, you know, I was treated a certain way I had a safe space to go back to. So, you know, it definitely makes a difference.

Show Break featuring Lucy Kang: You’re listening to Making Contact. Just jumping in here to remind you to visit us online if you like today’s show or want to leave us a comment. We have more information at RadioProject. org. And now, back to the show.

Amy Gastelum: I’m Amy Gastelum. Welcome back to Making Contact. These days, children and teens are coming out as gender diverse or lesbian or gay at younger ages than ever before. Because they’re coming out earlier, kids’ gender identity and sexual orientation is more politicized than ever. These young people are facing adult hate and [00:17:00] discrimination. So, despite progress in LGBTQ+ rights, LGBTQ plus kids are increasingly vulnerable. But Dr. Caitlin Ryan of San Francisco State University says support from families of origin, like the support Dr. Price and Ms. Battles had as kids, is incredibly protective for LGBTQ+ youth. She’s made it her life’s work to help all families, especially socially conservative families, learn to support their LGBTQ+ kids. And back in 2002, Dr. Ryan, along with Dr. Rafael Dìaz conducted the first comprehensive study of LGBTQ+ youth.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: And we identified over a hundred different behaviors that parents and caregivers use to respond to their LGBTQ children. And then we measured all of those behaviors and we could show how the rejecting behaviors contributed [00:18:00] to serious health risks.

Amy Gastelum: Risks like suicidal ideation and attempts, higher levels of clinical depression, substance use disorders, and behaviors that increase their risk for infection with HIV.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: And also, uh, there was significant levels of conflict in the family. They were more likely to be removed from the home and placed in foster care or end up in juvenile justice or end up unhoused.

Amy Gastelum: Rejecting behaviors include things like…

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: …Preventing the child from attending family events and gatherings because who they are shamed the families or when they were walking down the street together as a family that the family would physically separate from that queer identified child sending a message to people on the street, ‘you don’t belong to us.’ So, there were so many of these behaviors that were so hurtful and painful that they not only separated the child but they contributed to estrangement. and to, um, diminish sense of self-esteem and self-worth. And it [00:19:00] foreshortened a sense of hope for the future. And the accepting behaviors helped protect against risk, strengthen the family, and promote well-being for that LGBTQ young person.

Amy Gastelum: Doctors Ryan and Dìaz learned that one of the most impactful protective behaviors a parent can do for an LGBTQ+ child is to simply listen to them.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: Even when they’re struggling and believe that being gay or transgender is wrong, just sitting and talking with your child, simply listening to them without interrupting or punishing them or ridiculing them, hearing them, hearing what it’s like for them, and making it a safe space to talk about their experiences, that’s a simple behavior that everybody can do, and that is a behavior that our research shows helps protect against risk and promote well-being.

Amy Gastelum: Dr. Ryan and Dr. Dìaz took what they learned about these rejecting and protective behaviors and developed an evidence-informed Family Support Model to help [00:20:00] socially conservative families learn to support their LGBTQ+ kids. The model is applied directly with families in therapy, and it’s also taught as a training for people who interact with young people and their parents: mental health providers, teachers, community workers, clinicians, clergy, and on and on. This is a harm reduction model. That means it’s not all or nothing. Think needle exchanges for people who use intravenous drugs, or Narcan distribution to prevent deaths from opioid overdose. Even condom distribution is harm reduction. The point is to stop rejecting behaviors, not to change how the parent feels or thinks about their child’s queer identity. Once the parent in the program understands that their rejecting behaviors can lead to major problems for their kids, it motivates them to change what they’re doing, not necessarily how they’re thinking or feeling.

But Dr. Ryan [00:21:00] says, even lowering some rejecting behaviors can have a significant positive impact on a kid.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: You don’t have to accept an identity that you believe is wrong to stand up for your child. And when you do, it sends a powerful message to that child that I love you, I care for you, I’m going to be there for you, even though I’m struggling, I’m not going to reject you. And the great fear, I think, that LGBTQ young people have is that not only their families will reject them, but, um, that they’ll be separated from their culture, from their faith traditions, from things that are very deeply meaningful for them. Um, we have worked with families across cultural groups across ethnic and racial backgrounds, faith traditions, and we found that all families really want the same thing. They want their children to be happy and healthy.

Amy Gastelum: Parents who have learned from the Family Support Model often go on to become liaisons [00:22:00] for other socially conservative parents. Dr. Ryan says the program has had a big impact within the Mormon faith, for example.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: One of the powerful things that I’ve seen time and again is that as many parents learn the risk their child face, in society at large, they then see that so many other young LGBTQ people don’t have anybody to stand up for them, and many of them become advocates for other people’s LGBTQ children. And in fact, I’ve worked with many diverse families that look like they were super conservative on the surface but ended up becoming community leaders in developing services for LGBTQ young people and their families from their cultural and faith backgrounds.

Amy Gastelum: Because they had been through it themselves, that learning curve?

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: That learning curve and also a realization that we are all part of a community and that it really takes all of us, everybody taking responsibility for those children who are [00:23:00] abandoned and alone and suffering.

Amy Gastelum: Dr. Ryan is deeply concerned about the increased politicization of children’s identities we’ve seen in recent years.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: We’re never going to have healthy communities when we have adults attacking children’s identities, and, you know, muddying and disturbing any sense of peace that parents would have with having an LGBTQ child. The, the kinds of misinformation and, you know, carefully projected disinformation today is horrific. And when we begin to think about the impact of misinformation and disinformation and lies, most of which is generated out of hate and as a way to raise money for, um, really very distorted systems. Um, we can only counteract that with the truth. And we’re, um, excuse me, [00:24:00] I need to stop this or it will just continue to beep.

Amy Gastelum: Dr. Ryan is busy with trainings across the nation and even overseas.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: Well, that’s good.

Amy Gastelum: In this moment, Dr. Ryan is texting with a Lakota tribal nation member.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: It’s just a Lakota translation of our Family Acceptance Project name. Hang on a second.

Amy Gastelum: The community has asked her to come provide a training, and that’ll happen in the next few months. The Family Acceptance Project can’t be everywhere at once, so the team created a website with culturally diverse resources for families and a national resource map. Check this episode’s show notes at for more information. The project also created a free, downloadable poster series that lists the protective behaviors that families and community members can engage in to support LGBTQ+ youth. The [00:25:00] posters are free to use. Go get ‘em! And Dr. Ryan says they’re designed to be hung anywhere.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan:  In uh, clinic waiting rooms, in counseling offices, in various spaces, in schools and locker rooms, in public housing, in child welfare offices…

Amy Gastelum: The posters come in ten languages.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan: We’re trying to disseminate these posters in as many places as possible because they can do something really, really, really important and simple. They can start the dialogue. That families should be and are a critical part of the lives of their LGBTQ children.

Amy Gastelum: Okay, so we’ve covered clinical guidance for how to build healthy communities for LGBTQ+ youth, but Dr. Myeshia Price is walking both sides of that line. A researcher and non-binary parent to a gender fluid child. So I wanted to ask her something that isn’t really captured in the data when it comes to protective factors and just [00:26:00] leading an embodied life as a Black trans person. What is the role of joy?

Dr. Myeshia Price: Oh gosh, joy is, uh, in my opinion, joy is an act of resistance. I think, um, it is, it is experiencing something that, is in many ways is vital to your continued existence despite everything contrary to that. When I see it in its pure form and not something that feels forced, it’s a beautiful thing. Like it’s just amazing that like, particularly in groups where you’re, where you’re like, wow, you get to just let down all of your guards and just experience this pure form of happiness. And I think that is, again, pure, purely an act of resistance against any harm that is wished upon these, these young people in particular.

[00:27:00] Amy Gastelum: So not so much the Instagram post, but… I’m wondering if like you’ve, if there’s something that comes to mind when you, when you talk about that, if there was like an instance that you’re like, Oh yeah, I’m thinking of this.

Dr. Myeshia Price: I was just talking to a friend of mine and we were talking about sometimes how hard it is to be a parent. And I was like, yes, her kid is about to be two. And I was like, just wait though, like you get to play. And I think it’s kind of this interesting thing that like, sometimes play is work with your kid, I will admit. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you get to do things that spark that childhood joy in you, and it’s so amazing because you, even if it’s for like ten minutes, all of the like, I have to do dishes, I have work to do is gone. And you’re just playing. Like you’re just kicking a ball or you’re just building Lego sets or whatever the case is. You’re just playing. Like you’re just running around pretending to be a dinosaur. And that to me is an experience of joy. Or [00:28:00] you’re just out, you know, looking at water or you’re just out rolling down a hill with grass or something. And it’s just the, ultimately you have forgotten the burden of of the world around you and you’re just experiencing something for what it is, and that’s happiness. And I think that to me is what I think about when I think about joy.

I’m Amy Gastelum. You’ve been listening to Making Contact. All of the resources mentioned in this episode are listed in the episode show notes. Go to our website,, or follow us on social media to learn more. Happy Pride Month to everybody. Until next week.[00:29:00]


Author: Radio Project

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