WGN News Exclusive
CHICAGO -- One year ago, the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender students that allowed them to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Two Chicago area women responded to the decision by launching a campaign to introduce transgender teens to the rest of America--teens like 11-year-old Chazzie.
Chazzie is the youngest sibling in the Grosshandler family with three older brothers.
"Chazzie was born into the most masculine of households," Jen Grosshandler, Chazzie's mom, said.
Even as a toddler, Chazzie was drawn to tutus, dolls and long hair. As Chazzie aged, preferences didn’t change. Boys hair cuts turned into braids. At the age of 9, she wept and told her family that she knew she was always a girl.
"When Chazzie told us who she really was, it was not a surprise. It was in keeping with who she was over the years," John Grosshandler, her dad, said.
Chazzie's parents call their daughter patient, and her public admission nothing short of brave.
"We were on an eight-year journey with our daughter than sometimes we didn’t realize we were on," Chazzie's mom said. "It took us truly that long to truly catch up with her."
"She hasn’t changed as a person since I’ve known her," Chazzie's older brother, Lev Grosshandler, said. "She’s always been the same kid: the bubbly, loving, social butterfly that she is and the difference is now she is more comfortable with how people perceive her."
"It was like a weight taken off my shoulder," Chazzie said. "I'm happy that I'm accepted by my family, but some aren’t, and I want to fix that."
Recent studies show support is the key to building Chazzie's self esteem and reducing any depression. Gender Cool is the online campaign created by her mother and their friend Gearah Goldstein, a transgender woman who lives in their community. They both believe Gender Cool’s mission is simple.
"Sharing positivity in the community so that people can see based on their experiences, who they are and not what they are," Goldstein said.
The website highlights five teens referred to as "champions." They are from all over the country: New York City to Los Angeles, and as far south as Texas.
The teens featured are Stella, Gia, Nicole, Landon and Daniel. They are future politicians, athletes, actors, musicians and photographers. That’s how they want to be identified. Not just as males or females. Their shared stories meant to educate those who don’t yet understand the transgender population.
While Chazzie said she’s into fashion, that’s not all she intends to do when she grows up.
"I would love, when I’m older, to help others who are just like me, come out of their shell and be their true authentic selves," Chazzie said.
At just 11, she’s getting a head start with the help of her family and Gender Cool.
"My hopes and dreams for my daughter are the same as for the rest of my kids," John said. "To be happy and healthy, be kind and respectful and work hard, to leave the world a better place than they found it. To make the most of the life they’ve been given. To be themselves. And Chazzie has that in spades."
Gender Cool is not meant to be a resource of any kind for families working through a gender transition. It’s meant to be a place spreading positivity. Profiling thriving and productive transgender lives. Teens looking forward. Not back.
For more information, visit gendercool.org.