As the hours and days passed, the number of views and likes kept going up.
It was a YouTube video posted by the Trans United Fund, for its campaign “Meet My Child,” and Melissa DeStefano and her son, Aidan, had participated in the project. Within two days, it had reached 2.5 million people.
“I saw the excitement grow in my son’s eyes because these teenagers, they look at that social media all the time,” DeStefano said. “He kept giving me the update.”
The video showed a snapshot of what it was like having a transgender child and the mothers urging the public to see how normal and worthy of respect they are. While there are some hateful comments, the family, who lives just outside of Philadelphia, were happy to see the “likes” go up and words of encouragement posted in the comments section.
The recently launched Trans United Fund released the video in early May. The organization was founded to advocate for transgender people while building the community’s political power. In its first campaign, three mothers and their children were featured in “Meet My Child.”
DeStefano was introduced to the organization when the ACLU recommended her to them, as she had fought alongside the ACLU to have her son’s name changed.
“I’m a firm believer that anything that we are dealt with on this journey is to help others who are behind us on this journey traveling the same path,” she said of participating in the video. “We’re just trying to make things easier for future folks.”
Aidan came out as transgender to his mother in middle school -- news that shocked his mother. Having grown up as a tomboy herself, she thought her daughter was the same way; if anything, she thought maybe her child was a lesbian. Being completely unfamiliar with transgender people, or even really what it meant, she didn’t know where to turn to make sure she was giving Aidan all that he needed to be happy.
She told Aidan that she still loved him and they should do research on being transgender. DeStefano was initially resistant to starting any hormones or him presenting as a male completely, thinking it was in his best interests to wait until after high school, but after learning more about being transgender she found it was the opposite. They changed his name, after much fighting, and she signed off on him starting hormone therapy.
Aidan now fully presents as male.
“I definitely saw a change in his personality and his happiness,” she said of her son. He was already an outgoing person with lots of friends, but he “came out of his shell” even more.
“As we started to change the name and started to change the pronouns, I started to see a different level of confidence an almost an increase in his self worth. Just a brighter smile, a brighter outlook.”
The DeStefano family is a very Christian one, and her faith has taught her only to love her son even more.
“I’m a firm believer that God has given this child to me for a reason and I think He's given this to my child for a reason, and that is to help educate others to shed light on this whole transgender thing and say it’s ok, we’re just people.”
By participating in the “Meet My Child” campaign, DeStefano hopes it will help educate other people (“They’re not just bearded men in a dress in a bathroom,” she said) and also provide support to parents who are raising transgender children.
“After doing all my research about what it means to be transgender and learning about all these suicide rates and violence and lack of employment and lack of housing, I thought, ‘I would much rather have a live son than a dead daughter,’” DeStefano said.
For more information on the Trans United Fund, visit TransUnitedFund.org.