Tag: A Kid Like Jake

Thursday, February 26, 4:30 PM written by About Face Theatre

Turning Challenges into Opportunities: Raising gender non-conforming children

talkback-transparentSince opening A KID LIKE JAKE on February 6th, we’ve had the great pleasure of welcoming a variety of gender and parenting experts to participate in our Sunday Symposium series. These discussions have been a rigorous, thoughtful, and informative addition to the dialogue inspired by the show. We are pleased to present here a blog response from Dr. Scott Leibowitz, Head Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Gender and Sex Development Program, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago who was a recent panelist for one of these discussions.

To learn more about our Sunday Symposiums series, visit our page for A KID LIKE JAKE.


Turning Challenges into Opportunities: Raising gender non-conforming children

by Dr. Scott Leibowitz
Head Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Gender and Sex Development Program
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

How is it that a simple thing like a child’s gender can be so polarizing? Well, the answer is that perhaps it’s less simple than we think.

Most people take for granted that our world is organized to serve two genders. For the large majority of people, their internally felt gender matches the gender that is typically associated with the anatomy that their body consists of, and experiences that segregate by two genders are rarely given a second thought. The most obvious example of this gender binary is the presence of men and women restrooms, which most of society takes for granted. In children, brains are developmentally and cognitively wired to think dichotomously, and so when it comes to gender, the binary seems to make sense. From a very young age, the world around them reinforces this, conveying messages of what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl. These messages pervade the environments in which children’s brains are forming new connections: through advertising and marketing (when is the last time you saw a boy in a Barbie commercial?), language patterns, role models, mannerisms, and clothing. Children cannot help but believe that: “boys are supposed to be like this and girls are supposed to be like that.”

tBaQ6c47k474Oc__JoKNBLHA4eDnZHTm9_QbHhTv-ekSo when a child whose felt gender identity is something different from what their environments convey their gender should be based on anatomy alone, it forces the child to navigate between two juxtaposing forces. Either they somehow convey a sense of who they feel they are through various expressive means, or they feel the need to conform to the pressures of feeling different and perhaps suppress their feelings and behaviors. Often, they do both at various points in time and to varying degrees. This conflict is not always easy to navigate, and depending on how much angst it brings on the child, it can often lead to emotional problems like anxiety, sadness, or acting out. This isn’t always the case, as many children find a balance that is just right for them and have emotional and social development trajectories just on par (if not better) with their peers. However, to expect children to do this alone is unrealistic and that is why parents can play a crucial role in their gender nonconforming children’s lives.

The hypothetical “parent handbook” that parents read during pregnancy and shortly after their child’s birth does not prepare them for the real possibility that their child might not fit into societal gender norms. Parental investment in “gender reveal parties” and color choices for their baby’s room create gender expectations long before that child can walk or talk. As their child explores their unique path of trials and tribulations, parents have their own reactions and emotions to deal with. For the parents who experience their child’s gender path as a challenge- instead of an opportunity- it can add undue pressures to their family system as a whole. A KID LIKE JAKE depicts this very point so eloquently.

“If there is one message that comes through in A KID LIKE JAKE, it is that the parent struggle is often so tightly woven into their child’s journey. Helping parents realize that turning a perceived challenge into an opportunity is their key task when it comes to raising a healthy child whose gender differs from prior expectations.”

EI7Y1tohdguFYcaWmuPGlSJRhKfGJJLP3d8FZEDpBgcAlex and Greg, the parent figures in A KID LIKE JAKE, provide the audience with unique insights into the potential fears, anxieties, and frustrations that parents often face when raising a child whose gender expression falls outside societal norms. After the 100 minutes of impeccably realistic acting, audience members are left experiencing the uneasy angst that many parents go through when they perceive the path their child might need to take as challenging. If there is one message that comes through in this story, it is that the parent struggle is often so tightly woven into their child’s journey. Helping parents realize that turning a perceived challenge into an opportunity is their key task when it comes to raising a healthy child whose gender differs from prior expectations.

Scientific understanding of gender development in children is still in its infancy. Clinicians and providers have no definitive way to predict the future identity of an individual child. Some may ultimately identify as transgender, while some may not. Some may ultimately identify as gay or lesbian, while others may not. Some may transition to another gender in some capacity, while others may not. Healthy, supportive, open-ended communication about gender involves leaving one’s preconceived notions about the future at the door, while conveying a sense of love, appreciation, and support for the characteristics that make that specific child feel special, affirmed, and emotionally nurtured in that very moment. For most parents, tolerating the ambiguity of their child’s future is difficult in a world that forces their children to choose “boy” or “girl” before their bodies begin to mature into “men” and “women” in puberty. Just like all the other aspects of a child’s future adolescent/adult identity lack definitive predictable conclusions, so too is the dynamic process by which a child navigates their gender path, whether it consists mostly of challenges or opportunities.

Regardless of the competing demands that the world often presents along gender lines, what is known is this: a child is just a child. He needs love. She needs support. They need protection. Maybe it is pretty simple after all.

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Wednesday, February 18, 11:16 PM written by About Face Theatre

Advocacy for Transgender Minors

In A KID LIKE JAKE, parents Alex and Greg face questions about whether their son’s penchant for dressing up like Cinderella and gender-variant play is “just a phase” or may be an indication of more life-long repercussions. In recent years, the diagnosis of gender dysphoria in minors has become more common and gained more visibility. Young transgender people need emotional support from family, schools and peers, but it is also important for their changing identity to be legally recognized and protected.

TLC-logo-01On March 1st, we will welcome Maria Pahl, Legal Director & Staff Attorney for Chicago House’s TransLife Center, as a panelist for our Sunday Symposium discussion on Parenting LGBTQIA kids. In advance of this talk, Maria has also graciously put together the a list of resources and information for parents who want to learn how to support their transgender child and who are seeking legal name and gender marker changes in Illinois and with the Social Security Administration.

Says Pahl of the need for parental support for trans minors, “It is becoming clear that strong parental support of a child’s transgender identity is essential to their quality of life. With the high rates of suicide attempts, homelessness, and violence against transgender and gender non-conforming youth the presence of parental support can be a life-or-death matter.



Raising a Transgender Child Resources

Chicago House’s newest program, the TransLife Center (TLC), officially launched in 2013. The TLC provides comprehensive programming and support to transgender individuals. Services of the TransLife Center include TransHealth, TransHousing, TransLegal and TransWorks. For more information visit chicagohouse.org.

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Wednesday, February 18, 9:26 PM written by About Face Theatre

A KID LIKE JAKE receives 3 1/2 STARS from The Chicago Tribune!


“You’ll be most compelled by “A Kid Like Jake,” the shrewd, rich and very compassionate new play from Daniel Pearle,now its first,excellent and unpretentious Chicago production from About Face Theatre and director Keira Fromm.”



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Wednesday, February 11, 10:59 PM written by About Face Theatre

“What ARE you?”: A Rudimentary Encyclobea*dia

talkback-transparentThis weekend, we will kick off our Sunday Symposium series for A KID LIKE JAKE, playing now through March 15th at The Greenhouse Theatre Center. Each week, we will tackle a different subject related to the themes of the show. Our first discussion will focus on contemporary social challenges around sexual and gender diversity and how the next generation is working to progress acceptance and awareness around sexuality, gender non-conformity, and language used to express gender.

promo photoWe are thrilled to have as a guest contributor to our blog (and panelist for this exciting discussion) Bea Cordelia, queer and trans slam poet, blogger, activist, playwright, performer, scholar, researcher, and general gender warrior. Below us a selection of definitions relating to gender researched and compiled by Bea for her blog trans*posing pearls. For the complete list of definitions and to read more of her posts, visit her blog.

DISCLAIMER from Bea: “The following encyclopedia is written with the help of trustworthy trans resources on the Internet as well as two savvy trans friends of mine: Tristan Powell and Darien Wendell. I write this encyclopedia of trans terms as a transgender individual who dedicates herself to trans advocacy and studies these issues extensively. That said, and as will become apparent, this collection is largely refracted through my personal experiences and I do not wish to universalize my specific experience, nor speak as an absolute authority on themes and identities that I do not own. I welcome suggestions for edits in the comment section.”


Agender (adj.): Not experiencing any gender (not to be conflated with asexual, for gender and sexuality stand independently of each other).

Androgynous (adj.): [Delightfully] ambiguous in terms of gender.

Bigender (adj.): Experiencing two genders (hint: there are infinite). Bigender people might present with different genders from one day to the next. It would be a good idea to ask a bigender friend what pronouns they prefer at any given point in time—see pronouns and self-identify below.

Binary (n.): A system consisting of two parts. (How our society would have us over-simplistically understand gender and sex.)

Cisgender (adj.): Identifying with the gender one was assigned at birth. (e.g. If your birth certificate says female, and you self-identify as a girl or woman and use the pronouns she/her/hers, it is likely that you are a cisgender person.)

Drag (n.): A cultural practice and form of entertainment in which performers dress, dance, and lip-synch as another gender. Drag is entirely different from trans identities and people, traditionally playing with highly stereotyped forms of dress and movement. This does NOT mean that trans people cannot make for excellent performers in their own right.

Gender (n.): A social identity and form of presentation and behavior—man and woman are the two most frequent—highly correlated with the biological determinations we call sex, although the correlation renders certain people invisible—see invisibilization below. NOTE: male and female are sexual categories, referring to biology; man and woman are gender categories, referring to society.

Genderfluid (adj.): Fluctuating between genders.

Genderqueer (adj.): [from it’s pronounced METROsexual] “(1) A blanket term used to describe people whose gender falls outside of the gender binary; (2) a person who identifies as both a man and a woman, or as neither a man nor a woman; often used in exchange with ‘transgender.’”

Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) (adj.): Describes people who do display non-normative gender presentations. GNC people might use alternative pronouns, dress androgynously, or embrace a more queer aesthetic.

Intersex (adj.): Possessing indeterminate reproductive organs and/or genetics at birth. There are many corporeal configurations that fall under the category of intersex, but the identity as a whole destabilizes the idea that sex is only limited to male and female. Since most intersex people are raised as one of the two hegemonic genders, many later discover that they feel more comfortable under a different gender, and experience a social shift akin to that that trans people also experience. Additionally, the trans and intersex movements share political goals, like either having more sex categories on legal documentation or abolishing those categories altogether. See ze/hir/hirs below.

Invisibilization (n.): The cultural process by which populations of people are systematically overlooked. This happens to trans people all the time, as well as other minorities. If you doubt the truth of this statement, name ten transgender celebrities off the top of your head.

Normative (and non-normative) (adj.): What you should call things that society deems “normal” so as not to imply that non-normative people, identities, behaviors, etc. are somehow “alien,” or, to quote Butler again, “abject.” See queer below.

Other (n.): That which is else.

Other (v.): To make someone or something Other, to demarcate them or it as different from the norm.

Pangender (adj.): Experiencing many genders.

Privilege (n.): The sum of increased opportunities, rights, advantages, and immunities that any given person might enjoy over another. White people have more privilege than black people because they do not have to worry so much about the ways they are perceived. Cis people have more privilege than trans people because our society mostly structures itself in favor of a two-sex, two-gender system where delineations between sides are clearly and violently marked. Everyone has some kind of privilege. Check yours.

Pronouns (n.): The gendered shortcut-words by which people refer to themselves in language. Most people use either she/her/hers or he/him/his, but many trans people use many different pronouns that more accurately capture them in language. See self-identify, they/them/theirs and ze/hir/hirs below.

Queer (adj.): Anything and everything non-heteronormative. It can be used to describe gender expressions, such as in the gender identity genderqueer, as well as non-normative sexual identities. It has more recently transformed from a slur to a site of theory and political activism. Wonderfully nonspecific, it resists easy delineation between differences.

Self-identify (v.): To determine one’s own identity on one’s own terms. Why it is necessary to ask someone for the pronouns and other identifying language they use. Generally imperative.

They/them/theirs (pn.): Either a plural pronoun set or a singular, gender-neutral pronoun set. If you do not know a person’s preferred pronouns and cannot immediately ask them, it’s a good idea to start with they/them/theirs so as not to presume.

Trans (adj.): Describes anyone on the very diverse transgender spectrum, also sometimes called the transgender umbrella. You may also see “trans*” in reference to all trans people, although I do not include the asterisk here because many gender non-conforming people decried its addition, as if they were not included beneath the trans umbrella before the asterisk. Indeed, some people circulate the unfortunate rhetoric of being “trans enough,” as if it were only by physically transitioning that one truly proves their trans identity. Turns out, all trans people and all their trans bodies are just as trans as all the other trans people and all their trans bodies. Trans!

Transgender (adj.): NOT identifying with the gender and/or sex one was assigned at birth. NOTE: NOT A NOUN. WE ARE NOT REDUCIBLE TO OUR GENDER. Some people mistakenly speak about “transgender” as if it were an entity in and of itself. NOTE: NOT “TRANSGENDERED.” Ask yourself: do you have many “gayed” friends? Many “Latinoed” friends? No. We are transgender. Period.

Transition (v.): To journey from a birth-assigned gender and/or sex to the correct one(s). Typically used in reference for a series of medical procedures that can include any combination of surgeries, hormone usage, and more. Can also be used for non-medical physical transitions, such as maintaining body hair in a new way (i.e. shaving or not, growing it out or cutting it), or the social transition of using a different name, different pronouns, dressing differently, etc. Just like how you shouldn’t ask about someone’s genitalia, you shouldn’t ask about someone’s transition. It is a personal, physical/mental/emotional/psychological health concern of their own and not yours. They will tell you about it if they so choose.

Transphobia (n.): Fear of transgender people and the truth we carry. Often manifests itself in violence.

Transsexual (adj.): NOT identifying with the sex one was assigned at birth. Transsexual people usually physically transition. Generally speaking, transsexual is to transgender as square is to rectangle.

Trigender (adj.): Experiencing three genders.

Ze/hir/hirs (pn.): A gender-neutral pronoun set instead of the perhaps more common they/them/theirs.



A Chicago-born writer, performer, and researcher, Bea Cordelia Sullivan-Knoff uses her playwriting, slam poetry, blogging, and academia for transgender activism and other forms of social change. Five of her plays have been produced to date and a handful of her poems published. Most recently, she was (1) one of the winners of the Goodman Theatre’s New Play Bake Off with a modern feminist reinterpretation of the Medusa myth, (2) featured as Judy Shepard and other characters in the Virginia Wirtz Center for Performing Arts production of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, (3) the runner-up of the Louder Than A Bomb University Slam with poems about kissing and street harassment, and (4) published on Ms. Fit, an online feminist magazine, with a personal essay about navigating body image as a transgender lady. In a strange turn of events, she was once a guest writer for an episode of All My Children. She has performed at Salonathon, The Encyclopedia Show, the Jane Addams Hull House, the 25th Anniversary of Slam Concert, and other various events and venues throughout Chicagoland. Check out her latest (including an upcoming autobiographical one-lady show) at transposingpearls.blogspot.com, facebook.com/bea.cordelia1, or @TheHuntyDropper.

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Tuesday, January 27, 10:20 PM written by About Face Theatre

Do you know a kid like Jake?

AKidLikeJake-2Previews for our first mainstage show of 2015, A KID LIKE JAKE kick off in just a little more than a week and we can’t wait to share this thought-provoking piece with all of you. JAKE shares the story of a couple going through the intense process of getting their son, who has a penchant for dressing up like Disney princesses, into a top kindergarten program. Not only does it take a close look a the kinds of pressures that get put on education even for very young children, but it asks questions about how we do right by our children, protecting them while embracing who they are or might want to become.

The more we talk about the subject matter of this show, the more instances we have where people respond saying something like, “Oh, I know a kid like Jake!” The sheer number of personal connections we have to parents and children navigating gender development combined with the number of stories we see on the news and online about transgender or gender-fluid kids points to a shift in the climate and conversation about gender and young children. It is our hope that this staging of A KID LIKE JAKE joins in on and expands this dialogue.

To that end, we will be holding weekly panel discussions on themes and issues brought up by the play. Make sure to check out the show page for A KID LIKE JAKE for details on subjects and participants for these intriguing panels. In the meantime, below is just a short list of links to recent news articles about young people and gender identity.

Do you have a story about a kid like Jake? Share it in the comments or send us an email at jenna@aboutfacetheatre.org. We’ll continue to share info and stories here on our blog.

My Son Wears Dresses, and That’s OK With Me
by Seth Mencham
Huffington Post

I Am Jazz: New Children’s Book Raising Awareness of Transgender Children Released TODAY!
By Beth Sherouse, Ph.D
Welcoming Schools (a project of the Human Rights Campaign)

Powerful Photos Show Two Trans* Teens Growing Up & Finding Themselves
by Hayley MacMillen
Refinery 29

What Our Fascination With John Jolie-Pitt’s Gender Says About Us
by Marcie Bianco

Gwen Stefani Supports Her Sons Wearing Nail Polish
by Mitch Kellaway
The Advocate

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