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  • Cameron Stanley

Radar Watchlist: We Are Family

‘We Are Family’ (WAF) is a non-profit organization in South Carolina that "provides affirming spaces for LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, etc.) and ally youth up to the age of 24 through direct support, leadership development, and community engagement." The problem is that WAF is often crossing the line when it comes to influencing the tri-county youth, using children to train therapists, and offering "gender-affirming gear" to South Carolina youth. ‘We Are Family’ offers many programs that raise red flags. One such program is "KidSpace," described as a "supportive and affirming playgroup facilitated by therapists" offered to LGBTQIA+ youth ten years of age and younger. "KidSpace" is partnered with the Children's Museum of Lowcountry and The Play Therapy Center of Charleston.



To understand how WAF would respond to an inquiry regarding a potential client, we sent them the following email:


"My name is John. My daughter (7) has been interested in more masculine things since she was a toddler. She prefers playing outside with the boys in the neighborhood instead of playing with her dolls. She told me a couple of times that she wants to have short hair like me and prefers helping me out when I am working outside instead of playing princesses with her mom. She also prefers more boyish clothes. I believe she may be trans. Are there any resources or literature to guide me in the right direction for this? I am very new to all of these things."


We were hoping for some pushback against the belief that this fictional child is "transgender" because she enjoys more 'boyish' interests. Their response shocked us.


"Thank you for reaching out to WAF with your inquiry! I can recommend our in-house program ParentSpace, which you can learn more about by clicking here! To summarize, ParentSpace is a support group for parents of LGBTQ+ and ally youth that provides parents a space to share, meet other parents going through similar things, and have support from a licensed therapist who facilitates the group. For your child, I can recommend our playgroup for children aged 10 and below called Kidspace, which you can learn more about here. Kidspace gives kids a chance to meet other kids who are LGBTQ, and you can meet other parents with young kids and find community. In addition, you may want to check out our tips for parents' page as it includes valuable information on how to support your child as they explore who they are. Finally, you may want to share and read some affirming books together, such as 'My Shadow is Purple' or 'It Feels Good to be Yourself,' to name a couple of examples. I hope this helps, and I wish you grace and an open heart as you navigate these topics with your child. Being a parent is hard work, so I commend you for reaching out and wish you and your family the best!"


While the kindness was appreciated, one can't help but question why the immediate reaction is to affirm that the child's trans identity based on nothing more than 'tomboy' interests. They recommend "KidSpace," a service they have for children ten and under to talk about sexuality and "gender identity." They also have a Discord Server for ages 13-24.



When going to speak to a therapist, one would expect to receive care based on the therapist's own education and evidence-based practices. This is not the case for much of the therapeutic curriculum within WAF. The so-called mental health experts of Queer Youth Approval Board, a group consisting of youth of "all ages up to the age of 24, who strive to create a more affirming and inclusive environment within the mental health field for LGBTQIA+ people by creating and approving curriculum for therapists and mental health professionals."


Not only do these "trained youth," appointed by WAF, create and approve the curriculum, but they are also given monetary compensation after completing both the Queer Youth Approval Board Meeting and Therapist Training/Information Session. The Queer Youth Approval Board is tasked with helping We Are Family identify the therapeutic needs of LGBTQIA+ youth and training their network of therapists in "gender-affirmative care." So, if gender therapists are being trained by "trans and queer youth" in a curriculum being written and approved by those very same "trans and queer youth, one must ask, what type of therapy are the youth within WAF's mental health programs receiving? We found evidence that a 14-year-old girl was offered to start hormone therapy if she had one parent's “consent” at a local Planned Parenthood.



On We Are Family's "gender-affirming gear" page, they offer breast binders, penis packers, tucking kits, and "bra buds" in partnership with organizations 'G2CB,' 'Trans Essentials,' 'Unlockable,' and 'TransTape,' to youth within South Carolina and southern states. Along with "gender-affirming gear" for minors, per their website, they offer discreet shipping and remind children to put their birth names on the order form for youths who may not be 'out of the closet' to their parents. They openly brag about doing this for 171 children in one year.





Under the FAQ section of the "Gender Affirming Gear" page, the question "Is chest binding safe?" is answered with a resounding "Yes!" While the WAF website underlines the importance of choosing the right size, chest binding is known to have a number of potentially dangerous side effects. Studies show that breast binding can cause skin irritation, changes in developing breast tissue, back pain, overheating, chest pain, lung damage, shortness of breath, and others.



They have an Amazon wishlist filled with books about "Woke Parenting," social justice, and parenting autistic children. It also contains toys made for autistic children, suggesting that the children being transitioned through their center are on the autism spectrum or have very politically progressive parents.



On the surface, We Are Family may look like an innocent non-profit organization that was set up to assist diverse youth in South Carolina. However, as we look closer, we begin to see the red flags and the lack of evidence-based practices within this organization. Between the indoctrination of youth ten and under, radicalized young adults training therapists, queer theorists creating the curriculum themselves, and providing transition gear to minors on the autism spectrum without any knowledge of the safety risks, all behind their parents' backs, they deserve a spot on our RADAR until we get some answers. Such a well-funded and impactful group who claims to speak on our behalf should be able to stand up to some questioning. We are extremely wary of what we see going on here, and our concerns will be heard.




REFERENCES


We Are Family. (2023). What We Offer. https://wearefamilycharleston.org/whatweoffer


We Are Family. (2023). TGNC Gear. https://wearefamilycharleston.org/tgnc-gear


We Are Family. (2023). Discord. https://wearefamilycharleston.org/discord


We Are Family. (2023). KidSpace.

https://wearefamilycharleston.org/kidspace


We Are Family. (2023). ParentSpace.

https://wearefamilycharleston.org/parentspace


We Are Family. (2023). Instagram.

https://instagram.com/wearefamilycharleston?igshid=a3NpdWJiMnpkN2o1


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