Debbie Grabowski, a former Dallas police officer, reads a story to guests Saturday during Transgender Awareness Week story time at North Branch Library. People from Denton’s transgender community read children’s books about love, friendship, honesty and inclusion. Participants could draw their own self-portrait during the event.

Transgender Awareness Week story time at the North Branch Library on Saturday didn’t turn out to be what Amber Briggle thought it would be, but the show went on as more than 30 people sat and listened as readers volunteered to share stories with the crowd.

When Briggle planned out the story time event, her son was going to be one of the readers. He later pulled out because reading to babies was “boring,” Briggle said. Instead, she decided volunteer readers would share stories until no one was left or the children grew bored.

Briggle, whose son is transgender, said she wanted to do something that celebrates what transgender people do for the community as a part of Transgender Awareness Week. She is also on the Parents for Transgender Equality National Council.

“This is about bridge building [and] raising awareness,” Briggle said. “[Transgender people are] parents, students, workers and neighbors.”

More readers than children were in the audience, however everyone listened as the stories of friendship, identity and acceptance came and went. Readers ranged from former Dallas police officers to sales associates and former University of North Texas students.

The youngest reader, 16-year-old Sine Ratliff-Johnson, has only been out for a few months but has known who he really is for about a year now. He was met with applause as the youngest and most recent reader to come out.

“If we can bring awareness to people starting [at a young age], that will spread it to when they’re older,” Ratliff-Johnson said. “It would start a chain reaction.”

The story Ratliff-Johnson read was Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, which is about a blue crayon mistakenly labeled as a red one.

No matter how hard the crayon and its friends tried, everything it drew came out blue instead of red until everyone finally accepted it was a blue crayon.

Some of the stories were based on real-life children. Former Dallas police Officer Debbie Grabowski’s book of choice was I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, which is based on Jennings’ personal experiences.

Jennings is an 18-year-old LGBTQ rights activist who has appeared on television since she was 6 years old to discuss being transgender.

I Am Jazz resonated with Grabowski as she added in her own commentary on how she felt similar to the girl in the story.

Grabowski retired from the police department in 2017 and is a veteran of the Air Force Reserve. She also works as a lifeguard for the city of Denton and is a volunteer firefighter.

Two other readers, 35-year-olds Dylyn Martin and Jae Luna, participated to show that people are different and open the conversation about transgender people.

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this, just get out and help the community, so this was really awesome,” Luna said.

Megan Jorgensen, 23, has been out for three years and said outreach like this event is important to her.

“I would’ve loved a story like this when I was a kid,” Jorgensen said.

ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached via Twitter at @zairalperez.

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