This is a story that could be about any of the hundreds or thousands of kids who grow up in Park District programs and go on to become staff members at the pools and recreation centers, instructors in programs, and an inspiration to the next generation. But while this story is exactly the same as so many others, there is an inspiring teachable moment here. With the support of family, friends, and the staff at your Park District, the story unfolds beautifully, and exactly as it should. Here’s just a bit of Chazzie’s story.
As a regular, energetic member of the Park District’s Kid’s Club, at 5 years old Chazzie colored, made lots of art projects with Miss Debbie, and loved playing with dolls. “The staff were all so wonderful. I felt connected, grateful, and supported.” Of course, the Park District staff supports all kids in our programs, but while having been born the youngest of 4 boys in the family, since the age of 2 Chazzie had been expressing herself as more feminine than masculine. The happiness she felt just being a kid at the Park District was an important part of her life, even before she was able to explain who she was, and she “Went to Kids Club all the time,” until she was 7 or 8 years old.
Chazzie was part of Circus Camp at the Park District when she was 8 and 9 years old, taking part in the fun and games, along with performing in the theatre shows. Once again, the counselors were “So supportive. I was able to wear the female costumes in the shows, and go about my day.” Just beginning to transition, “It was the start of me feeling really comfortable with who I was inside, and even if I wasn’t fully out to everybody I was able to thrive and be myself.”
Chazzie came out as transgender in 4th grade, and socially transitioned in 5th grade. She told the principal and teachers at Wayne Thomas Elementary School that she was a girl, and “My teachers got me for who I am, and it made me so happy.”
Working out at the Park District Recreation Center “Which is so fun!” connected her with Fitness Manager Jodi DiTomasso. “Jodi has been such great support for me,” said Chazzie, and Jodi’s daughter is “My best friend!”
In the summer of 2022, then 16 years old, Chazzie worked the Front Desk job at Hidden Creek AquaPark, where from day one she learned first-hand just how important great customer service is to the success of a Park District facility. Dealing with every conceivable situation, including The music is too loud! has given her deeper insight into communicating with people, and helping them with a problem. “It was an amazing experience because I learned how to navigate all sorts of conversations in a way that helped everyone!”
Support for who you are is one of the things that comes up often when talking with Chazzie, and she has been giving back to our community, the LGBTQ+ community, and the Park District for many years. She is a constant beacon of hope to kids, teens, and adults when speaking about who she is, and she’s helping to promote everything that has to do with Pride, year-round, throughout the state, around the country, and in our hometown. About us, she said, “I have a lot of friends in the LGBTQ+ community who go to the Park District, and they tell me that it’s been so loving and supportive for them. All the people there are just such nice humans!” We’re humbled by those words, and we’ll do our best to live up to them every day.
Chazzie is a founding Champion of the GenderCool Project, a non-profit co-founded by Gearah Goldstein1 and Jen and John Grosshandler in 2017. GenderCool is now a worldwide movement. As you can read in Chazzie’s bio on their website “… she realizes that by telling her powerful, positive story, she is helping people understand that transgender and nonbinary kids are just like all other kids.
At 11 years old, Chazzie shared her story nationally on TODAY2 and helped launch GenderCool to a global audience. She has spoken at corporations, conferences, black-tie galas, houses of worship and schools across the country and been featured in national media including The New York Times, USA Today, ABC News, NBC News and Adweek. Chazzie has also had the honor of speaking at the White House and collaborating with the administration around progressing equality for transgender and non-binary young people.
As a rising senior in high school, Chazzie is deeply involved in cross-cultural service and broadcast journalism. As a member of the broadcasting club at her high school, she is an on-air anchor for her high school’s television network and delivers programming in both English and Spanish. Chazzie also has a driving passion for volunteering. Whether serving meals for people experiencing food insecurity, supporting families at the Ronald McDonald House, or providing tutoring through Rotary Club, she’s at her best when giving back.”
Chazzie recently spent time with some of her friends in New York City during the filming of an ABC Special for the Our America series, “Who I’m Meant to Be 2023.” Hosted by Gio Benitez, it’s quite an extraordinary and in-depth look into the lives of six transgender young people, ages 14 to 19, talking about who they are, their ambitions, how they are thriving, and what they want everyone to know about their generation. We think you’ll be moved, and enlightened, by their words and stories.
When you listen to Chazzie speak so eloquently about growing up surrounded by love, supported by her family and friends, and the Park District staff at programs and events, you quickly realize that every story she tells, every memory she relates, every emotion she expresses is wrapped up in who she is today: a terrific young woman with talents and skills, dreams and aspirations, and goals that she will no doubt attain. She is a high school journalist now, and will be a great one on TV in the near future. (We’ll be watching!) She wants to work in education and help kids understand that they can be who they truly are: teachers, authors, scientists, dancers, barbers, and everything else the world offers. In her powerful words, “Being transgender is the least interesting thing about us.”
Chazzie is the smart, hard-working, joyful teen that we all want to know. We are proud to have played a small part in her story. We’re better for it, and we invite you, your family, and everyone you love to join us at the Park District as we continue to build a strong, diverse, caring, and inclusive community. You can read all about our facilities, programs, and events on our website. We look forward to seeing you and hearing your story soon.
1 Gearah Goldstein is a nationally recognized diversity, equity, inclusion and LGBTQ+ subject matter expert. Read more about her work at gearah.com.
2 The Today program segments, as well as a number of other videos are available for you to watch on this GenderCool website page.