Ryland’s Story: The Power of Accepting and Loving Transgender Children

Post by Jacob Tobia, HRC Foundation Intern.


For many parents of transgender and gender non-conforming children, learning to understand and affirm their child’s gender identity and expression can be a long and winding road.

Facing social prejudice, discrimination and isolation, transgender children and their parents often encounter difficulties that are unimaginable to others. And then there are families like the Whittingtons, who’ve not only confronted these challenges head on, but who have now given literally hundreds of thousands of people a better understanding of the true meaning of family.  

Over the past week, a new video from the couple about their transgender son Ryland has gone viral. In the video, Jeff and Hillary share the challenges, joys, and triumphs that have come with raising Ryland and learning to affirm his gender identity.

Ryland, Jeff and Hillary were recently honored with the Inspiration Award at the 6th annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast in San Diego last Thursday, where they premiered the video.

“We signed up as parents with no strings attached: this is our family, and this is our amazing son. Our hope is that our voice will be heard, and this world will become a more loving and accepting place for Ryland and the LGBTQ community.”

As for Ryland? “I’m the happiest I have been in my whole life,” he says.

Learn more about affirming gender through HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program and read more about the experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming youth by reading our recent report on Gender-Expansive Youth