A mother’s viral photos of her transgender daughter send a powerful message
Rebekah Bruesehoff may only be 16, but she’s spent almost half her life publicly fighting for her rights as a transgender person.
That’s why her supportive, activist mom Jamie took a moment this week to tweet a cheerful photo of Rebekah in a green dress and white flowers, styled and ready to attend a high school dance — an update on one, which went viral in 2017 Rebekah at a rally holding a sign that cheekily read, “I’m the creepy transgender person the media warned you about.” This image will appear alongside the new one.
“There’s this juxtaposition,” Jamie tells Yahoo Life, referring both to the two photos and to her daughter’s life. “The photo from six years ago popped into my memories and I was struck: it feels so long ago and like it was just yesterday.” When the photo popped up, she explains, she was at a nail salon with Rebekah the before got a manicure in her second cotillon. Sharing both photos, Jamie explains, felt like an opportunity to show a broader look at her teen, who plays field hockey and loves musical theater.
“She’s spent six years fighting publicly — but she’s also just a teenager going to a fun dance,” she says. “That’s so much of what the Twitter thread was about… that trans people go to dances and find joy and are whole people, and that trans people are more than just their struggles for rights and for life. “
The original photo of Rebekah, then 10, holding the sign inspired by a story she found online was taken shortly before a protest in Jersey City, New Jersey, against the Trump administration cutting state support for transgender students. The tween was asked to speak to the 200-strong crowd, to which she agreed, and then her mum posted the picture to Facebook, where it “went crazy viral.”
Looking back, Jamie says, “It certainly wasn’t what either of us planned. But it was really impressive to see her use her voice and say, ‘I deserve a safe school.’ But what was even more impressive to her was hearing the voices of other people…unsupported trans kids, trans adults…it was the first time when she was 10 that she realized how good she was it had and how much work we had had to do.”
This idea of work still to be done is especially relevant now, Jaime says on Twitter: “In some ways things are worse than I could have imagined 6 years ago… and yet she continues to resist with advocacy, speech and enlightenment she resists her joy by growing into the beautiful young woman that so many wish didn’t have the chance to become.”
She is referring to the unprecedented number of anti-trans and anti-gay laws emerging across the country: just two months into 2023, the LGBTQ rights organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is pursuing 340 anti-LGBTQ laws that have been introduced at the state level. 150 of those would explicitly restrict the rights of transgender people, 90 of those would deny trans youth access to gender-affirming medical care; two have become law, in Utah and South Dakota.
“Things are pretty awful right now,” Jaime tells Yahoo Life. “We live in New Jersey … so there’s a certain privilege and a certain level of security that comes with that — and besides, you’re nowhere safe, we know that.” My heart breaks for all transgender youth. Their identities will be used as a political football.”
Because Rebekah is an athlete — and happily had a “really positive experience” on her hockey team — her family “really got into public conversations in support of transgender athletes” only to see that “attacks on healthcare by the day.” getting worse by the day,” she says, adding, “It has become very clear” that the anti-trans fight “is not about protecting children. It never was. It’s about political power and removing transgender people from public life.”
But even in New Jersey, which has some protections — like the state’s LGBTQ-inclusive school curriculum and the Babs Siperstien Act, which allows people to change their gender identity on their birth certificates without “surgery proof” — there’s no way to do it completely escaping the national rhetoric.
“What people don’t understand is that young people are affected by these messages… They’re seeing what’s happening and they’re watching their identities being banned from public conversations in schools,” she says. “People, even in states like New Jersey and New York, know what’s going on. And for a young person that their identity is discussed on all fronts? That is exhausting.”
Luckily, the mother notes of her daughter, “Rebekah is a great joy-as-resistance type of person. She focuses on the positive, has friends, loves to laugh. That’s how she sustains herself, I think.” She also acknowledges her relative privilege: “She’s white, she exists within the gendered expectations that people have of girls, and she has supportive parents who have her back and the resources have.”
Rebekah’s ardent spirit, her mother says, has had a profound impact on the entire family — including her “super supportive” brothers, ages 8 and 13, and her father, a Lutheran pastor who, as Jaime says, “preaches the gospel…that’s after calls us to work towards justice.” She adds that “he preaches the message of inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ+ people.”
But it’s Jamie, who identifies as “queer” and uses “she/them” pronouns (also on her website and social media profiles) who may be most influenced by her teen’s bravery.
“I’m bisexual,” she tells Yahoo Life. “I came out more publicly in 2018. I think there was part of that work, advocating for my daughter to show up in all her authenticity, that felt inauthentic to me not to share.” As for her use of she/her, it’s been around for about a Year is new, Jamie adds, this is a way to “further break down those gender boxes and understand myself in the fullness of who I am.” “She” feels really great.”
Jamie, who has written a book due out in September – Raising Children Beyond Binary: Celebrating God’s Transgender and Gender-Specific Children, intended to fill a void where there is no guidance to “raise gendered children in the faith when we know it is people of the faith who do the most harm” – adding that the coming out was powerful.
“I think I share my identity as a bisexual person and my identity not as a non-binary but as someone who feels restricted by the gender binary and I think watching Rebekah live her life the way she does knowing herself and the positive impact that has had,” she says. “I know that when we show ourselves, it changes the world.”
Wellness, parenting, body image and more: get to know it WHO Behind huh with the Yahoo Life newsletter. Login here.
https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/mom-viral-photos-transgender-daughter-powerful-message-173956015.html A mother’s viral photos of her transgender daughter send a powerful message