What is SEARCH?
S.E.A.R.CH. is an acronym for Safe Environment for the Acceptance of Rainbow CHildren.
Along with the help and support from her husband Matt, in March of 2016, Martie founded S.E.A.R.CH. as a group for TGNC kids and their parents and/or caregivers. While the newly-passed (March, 2016), transphobic and trans-exclusionary bill, HB2 (a.k.a., “bathroom bill”) only fed the desire to form this group, ultimately, the inspiration for the group was Matt & Martie’s gender nonconforming, youngest child, Charlie.
S.E.A.R.CH. initially began as a closed Facebook group that spread through word-of-mouth on social media, and connected parents of TGNC (trans and/or gender nonconforming) kids, locally, to share resources, have community, celebrate their kids, and sometimes, even just to vent. The first goal was to create a network of parents who were willing to plan and have organized play dates for their TGNC children – play dates where these kids could feel safe to dress, express and play authentically, in a judgment-free environment, with other like-minded kids.
At the time, Charlie, AMAB (assigned male at birth), was only getting more and more interested in playing exclusively with “girl” things, like My Little Pony, princess dress up, baby dolls, Barbies, and so on. Unfortunately, it goes without saying, but there were no other boys in 4th grade coming over for play dates at Charlie’s house who wanted to play any of those “girl” things, and Charlie had no desire to play typical “boy” games and activities. Also, by 4th grade, girls, who Charlie had previously always hung out with, no longer really wanted a “boy” tagging along at recess or elsewhere. (4th and 5th grade were pretty brutal – it seems they are today’s kids equivalent of what middle school was for 1980s kids.)
With her home city population of approximately 458,000 (and growing), Martie knew there’d be other parents in her area raising TGNC children, but she severely underestimated how many there’d be. A couple months later, when a thank you letter to Justice, the tween girls’ clothing store, that Martie wrote and openly posted on Facebook went viral, the group’s membership only grew. More and more parents of TGNC kids connected in person or online with Martie and found their own bravery in letting go of gender expectations, or just letting their kids live and express their gender authentically and happily.
Several parents were on board, ready to get this gender diverse play group up and running. The only question was: where would they meet? Martie was ready to open her small living room to a group of strangers when a few friends suggested contacting the local LGBT Center to look into possible options, or maybe even becoming a sponsored program.
It was good timing. The LGBT Center did not have such a group, but they were receiving phone calls from parents, asking about such a group.
S.E.A.R.CH. began its trial period from July to September of that year, and then became an official program of the LGBT Center of Raleigh in October, 2016.
What began as a closed Facebook group with about 50 members grew to an in-person group for transgender and gender non-conforming kids ages 12 and under, and discussion group for parents and/or caregivers of TGNC kids, who all meet monthly. The monthly group has had over 50 unique families join during the in-person meetings, and even though the Facebook group has changed from “closed” to “secret,” the membership in that space has grown from approximately 50 local families to over 300 families from all over the United States, as well as a few other countries.
The S.E.A.R.CH. program serves several purposes:
Locally, this will be a group of dual-purpose where:
1.) Rainbow Children (meaning TGNC – trans and/or gender non-conforming), can all congregate for nonjudgmental, free play in a safe environment, and
2.) parents/caregivers can gather for support and educational dialogue about the gender spectrum, and the issues we face raising these children.
*exceptions may be made depending on individual circumstances.
Worldwide, we have a secret Facebook group, which is made open to those who complete a brief screening and wants to help further and support our mission. Online, S.E.A.R.CH. is a place where parents/caregivers of gender non-conforming and trans children can come together for support, guidance, and encouragement. Since S.E.A.R.CH. on Facebook is a secret group, all members are screened prior to being accepted in the group. Currently, the group has online members from all over the USA and several other countries.
Want to support S.E.A.R.CH.?
Donations can be made by check to The LGBT Center of Raleigh, with “S.E.A.R.CH.” in the memo line.
Address: LGBT Center of Raleigh, 324 S. Harrington St. Raleigh, NC 27603
Or, online through the LGBT Center of Raleigh, here.
Our Reason & History: On March 23, 2016, the governor of North Carolina held an “emergency session” to pass HB2, the most anti-LGTBQ+ legislation in recent U.S. history, at a cost of $42,000, with lightning speed in an unprecedented 11 hours . Hidden within the blatant discriminatory language of this bill was a band of other inconceivable items that would not only affect the LGBTQ+ community, but everyone else – including even veterans. Many members of NC Senate were blindsided by not having adequate time to completely read, debate, or clarify questions regarding the bill. In the senate, the bill passed 32-0, with the Democratic party walking out in protest. House Bill 2 became law in less than 12 hours.
The economic fallout has been devastating to NC. And it gets more egregious. Just before July, 2016, funds in the amount of $500,000 from the state’s Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Fund were transferred to Governor Pat McCrory’s office to handle litigation over House Bill 2, which he continues to defend despite its inherent national controversy, and condemnation from President Obama.
Read about HB2 here: http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/north-carolina-gender-bathrooms-bill/
and read HB2 here (it’s not that long): http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015E2/Bills/House/PDF/H2v4.pdf
What We’re Going to do About it: My husband and I hope to make a difference with our votes at election time. But we were compelled to do something in the meantime – something that would both benefit our child (who was growing more depressed over gender identity issues), and benefit other like-minded adults who wanted to fight back against discrimination in our home state.
Charlie had been asking me to create a “gender creative playgroup” for about a year. The anger we felt over HB2 pushed us into loving action, and my husband and I began creating our group, S.E.A.R.CH., the day after HB2 passed.
What are “Rainbow Children?”
- “Rainbow Children” is my preferred term for the larger umbrella of gender-expansive or gender non-conforming children.
- Gender-Expansive (or Gender Non-Conforming) = A wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system. (This would include girls whom you might refer to as “tomboys,” or boys as, “he’s more in touch with his feminine side.”)
Example: My 10-year-old child assigned male at birth is “gender non-conforming,” and uses “they/them/theirs” pronouns, meaning, at this point in their life, they are happy with being “just a person,” who doesn’t identify as male of female, but rather, some combination of both. Gender non-conforming children may also reject the gender binary, and be neither male nor female, but something else altogether. My child, however, prefers all things traditionally marketed to girls (such as: toys, clothing, shoes, accessories, decor, games, imaginative play, and colors, to name a few), and tends to prefer the company of female friends over males.
- This group is open to all children who fall under the non-binary gender spectrum “rainbow,” whether they are mildly gender non-conforming, or openly transgender, and their supportive parents, older siblings, and/or caregivers.
- Adult allies who want to help support and educate the community on the gender spectrum are accepted as part of our group.
- In addition to giving children a safe place to play, they will also have the opportunity to meet and hopefully form lasting friendships with kids who are like them.
Charlie’s Contribution: After the Orlando massacre happened in Pulse Nightclub, my son wanted to design a gender creative t-shirt to spread awareness, that everyone – children and adults – can wear. He designed it all on his own, from start to finish. You can see the design and pre-order one here:
I just need your name and e-mail to reserve one.
Thank you for your support! Together we can make this happen, and show our government that we won’t stand for hate in our state. #SEARCH #nohateinmystate #repealHB2 #fullrepealHB2