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Davis, California

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Davis community shows support for transgender children following local author event

Davis Parent University hosted an online event that received protest and backlash; the community responds with support for gender expansive people


By CHRIS PONCE — city@theaggie.org

Content Warning: this article contains discussions of transphobia. 

Lea este artículo en español.


On Jan. 11, Davis Parent University (DPU) hosted an event featuring the co-author of “The Transgender Child,” Rachel Pepper. The book was written as a guide for parents, families and educators who are trying to support and understand children who are transgender, non-binary and/or gender expansive. The event was originally scheduled to be held in person but was moved online due to safety concerns.  

Jenny Canfield is the co-chair of Davis Parent University. She said that the organization, which was founded 14 years ago, aims to protect all children and their education. 

“DPU’s mission is to provide high-caliber lectures and programming to the Davis community parents, caregivers, teachers and administrators,” Canfield said. “We strive to assist [Parent Teacher Associations] and [Parent Teacher Organizations] in their mission, inspiring and educating parents and advocating for the well-being of every child.”

Co-chair of Davis Parent University, Abby Koenig, discussed how the event featuring Rachel Pepper has an important message for parents. She also talked about the backlash the event received and how the community responded. 

“We were expecting that this would be a controversial topic, because anyone who’s reading the news knows that gender is a sensitive issue, and there’s been a lot of discomforts and a lot of conversation nationally,” Koenig said. “There was a small group of parents, some of whom are not from our school district, who protested Rachel Pepper’s event. But overall, we’re very grateful that the Davis community has expressed overwhelming support for Rachel and her core message of love and acceptance for all children regardless of gender identity.” 

Koenig said she wasn’t present to witness the protest first-hand, but heard of the backlash and how these protests affected students and parents. 

“It was very poignant as a community member, as a DJUSD [Davis Joint Unified School District] parent, to read about the impact that the protesters had on students at DHS [Davis Senior High School],” Koenig said. “I think I can speak for all of the DJUSD community members, our hearts really went out to any of the students who felt targeted.”

In spite of these protests, Koenig wanted to highlight the support parents and the community have demonstrated for transgender children and talked about how people’s responses have inspired her. 

“We’ve been so inspired by our community standing shoulder to shoulder with gender-expansive young people who are so often marginalized,” Koenig said. “It’s been very moving to see so many Davis parents and educators just embodying DJUSD’s beautiful statement, that quote, ‘We all belong.’”

At the Jan. 19 DJUSD meeting, parents, families and members of the community came to show their support for transgender, non-binary and gender expansive children. According to a video posted by the Davis Phoenix Coalition on Facebook, those in attendance held signs that read “Davis says no to transphobia, no hate in our town” and “school for all means all.” Other signs included ones painted in the colors of the transgender flag (blue, white and pink) that read the words, “we exist.”

Koenig talked about how she hopes transgender and non-binary children in the community feel support from those around them. 

“I hope that every transgender or non-binary young person from the community that did feel targeted by any of the protest experience the really profound affirmation and outpouring of love and support at the school board meeting,” Koenig said. 

Local businesses have also demonstrated their support for the transgender community and children in Davis. The Avid Reader held a three-week fundraiser for The Trevor Project that ended after Feb. 14. Holly Thompson, the outreach and event manager for The Avid Reader, explained via email how the DPU event inspired the fundraiser.

“We partner with Davis Parent University to sell books onsite at their events,” Thompson said. “But because the January Rachel Pepper event needed to be moved to a virtual event (due to protests and community safety) we wanted to make the best of the situation by donating proceeds of the book’s sales to The Trevor Project.”

“The Transgender Child” encourages readers to take steps to nurture transgender, non-binary and gender expansive children and to deconstruct previously held notions in order to better protect all children. 

“The first [step] is to thoroughly explore what is currently known and understood about gender,” the book reads. “Once we become educated about the current thinking around gender itself, the next big step is to release ourselves from our inherited beliefs, and thus allow ourselves to see the beautiful spectrum that gender really is.” 


Written by: Chris Ponce — city@theaggie.org