|GenderCool Project participants Chazzie (from left), Daniel, Landon, Gia, Nicole and Stella gathered at the Cliff Dwellers Club after their appearance at Conagra Brands. The group encourages acceptance of transgender youth.|
Six young people, ages 12 through 17, sitting on a pair of leather sofas at the Cliff Dwellers Club on Michigan Avenue, talking about their day: Chazzie, Daniel, Gia, Stella, Nicole and Landon.
Regular kids, in most regards — maybe a little more poised than typical middle- and high-schoolers. Each shakes hands firmly, making eye contact. They come from across the country, Massachusetts to Texas, and had just visited one of the largest corporations in Illinois.
"We met the CEO," said Stella. "That was pretty cool."
"It was really fun," said Chazzie. "Because they gave a lot of food."
They'd better; they sure have enough. The company was Conagra Brands, the $8 billion packaged food giant headquartered in Chicago, and the kids are part of the GenderCool Project, a non-profit group working to show transgender youth for what they are most of the time: not victims of bullying, not suicides, not individuals whose bathroom habits are fair game for public critique, but unique individuals filled with enthusiasm and creativity.
The effort was begun early this year by two Chicago-area women, Jen Grosshandler and Gearah Goldstein, in reaction to the Trump administration decision to trash school guidelines for transgender students.
"If we don't tell their stories, then people will think that anyone who identifies as transgender is not right," said Grosshandler. "It's not true."
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