Mother of Twin Boys – One Who is Transgender – Calls for Safer, More Welcoming Policies in Michigan

“Full equality for everyone is one of the foundational principles of the United States of America,” Krista Anderson said into her camera, a big rainbow flag serving as her background. “America is not a safe place for just some people to feel protected and comfortable. It’s a place where everyone needs to feel accepted, welcomed, safe, and protected – in school, at work, at restaurants, in the airport, when they’re using the bathroom, when they’re in a locker room, when they’re talking to a store clerk or a public official, when they’re speaking to a teacher or a boss or a neighbor.”

Krista filmed a great video discussing her own experiences and the reasons that she supports full transgender equality as part of the #EveryoneWelcome campaign, which seeks to illustrate and communicate the broad, far-reaching support across the country for transgender-inclusive non-discrimination protections. Watch her video here:

Krista has a deep personal connection to the topic: She has two 15-year-old children, twins, and one began transitioning from female to male nearly two years ago.

Krista said her child Will has always been quite private and introverted, especially when compared with Bryson, her other son, who is open and talkative. About a year and a half ago, Krista, taking cues from Will’s choice of dress and speech, approached the topic with Will, who had seemed to harbor a depression for quite some time.

When Krista asked if everything was OK, Will broke down and opened up, explaining that he felt more like a boy than a girl – and from there, Krista and her family embarked on a journey that has led to Will’s transition.

Will socially transitioned while enrolled at the same school, a charter school near Holland, Michigan, where Krista and her family lives. Last year, he returned to school in the fall as Will, a male, and the school administrators have been very supportive.

The effect has been clear on Will: He is happier and brighter. He just seems more comfortable with his outside matching the person he truly is.

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Krista Anderson’s advocacy for LGBT equality did not begin with her son’s transition – in fact, when Will explained to her that he is transgender, she had already been facilitating a support group for transgender people and their loved ones as part of her involvement with the local PFLAG chapter.

And her passion for social justice stretches to her own childhood. Krista was born with a congenital eye condition, so since her youth, she has been completely blind in her right eye and legally blind in her left eye.

“When you grow up with something that’s different from other kids, you’re very aware of that,” she explained. “I got some cruel comments from kids, and I had to use special technology and large print books at public school. I had some of those negative experiences – and also some really lovely experiences – and I think for me, I was always curious about why some people have a difficult time accepting people who are different, while other people totally embrace people who are diverse and different.”

Krista continued: “That was always an underlying curiosity for me growing up, and so when I was in college, I decided to study psychology. I may be able to help other people who are different in someway because of my unique understanding.”

“I think about that and I realize that Will would have no protections at work. He could be fired specifically for being transgender. That’s what needs to change, and that’s why we need to keep pushing forward – to ensure that everyone is protected and that everyone is welcome.” – Krista Anderson

Her first real exposure to advocating for the LGBT community came in graduate school, when several of her clients – including one who was transgender – identified as part of the LGBT community. She learned a great deal from them as well as from a close friend and colleague who was transgender. The struggles they were facing ignited a spark in Krista to stand up  for LGBT equality. 

Now as a licensed clinical psychologist in Holland, Michigan, Krista works for a non-profit Christian mental health service provider, and she has made it part of her work to bring her employer up to date on the importance of being LGBT-affirming and LGBT-friendly. “The community of Holland is quite conservative,” she explained. “When I started my company had Focus on the Family literature out, and that was challenging for me, but I want people in this conservative community to know that I am a safe, welcoming therapist.” In fact, due to her gentle encouragement, the clinic where Krista is employed has participated in Holland’s June PRIDE festival since its inception in 2013. 

In addition to her support for her son – and for other LGBT people, including clients – Krista is actively involved in a welcoming and affirming Presbyterian Church, as well as Holland’s PFLAG chapter.

For example, in March, Krista worked with some of her fellow chapter members to to bring the Detroit Police Department’s LGBTQ liaison to Holland in order to coordinate a diversity training for the Holland Police Department.

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Krista wants to see her home state of Michigan reach its potential in terms of uniformly protecting and respecting members of the LGBT community. In Michigan, as in 31 other states, LGBT people are not fully protected from discrimination. In fact, Michigan has no state-level non-discrimination protections at all covering discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Just locally, in the town of Holland, Krista knows that there is a long way to go to secure comprehensive non-discrimination. In the early 2010s, a group of advocates in Michigan canvassed to urge the City Council to advance an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, and several forums and meetings were held on the topic until the ordinance was voted down. The work in Holland, as in so many cities and states, surges on.

“It’s so important,” Krista said about LGBT non-discrimination, thinking about her son Will in particular. “I think about my kid and all of the people in our city who are not protected. My son is 15. He’s one of these kids who, when he’s 16, he wants to get a job. He’s already volunteered at the library consistently. We are now communicating with our library, and while the teen librarian is fantastic and provides a safe space for teens, full support is still not evident. The library, for example, would not allow a teen LGBT group.” 

“I think about that and I realize that Will would have no protections at work. He could be fired specifically for being transgender.”

But it’s not just that,” she said, thinking beyond her son and considering more broadly the impact that comprehensive non-discrimination protections would have on the state of Michigan as a whole. “It’s friends who are gay and lesbian renting apartments or trying to find housing, and they cant have any security or find a safe space for them to be, and they could be told, ‘Sorry, you can’t live here anymore because you’re gay.’ That’s what needs to change, and that’s why we need to keep pushing forward – to ensure that everyone is protected and that everyone is welcome.”

You can join Krista and the #EveryoneWelcome campaign by filming your own short video and posting it to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, or Tumblr with the hashtag #EveryoneWelcome. Learn more about the campaign here.

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