Reading Guide Questions
Raising Ryland Reading Group Guide
1. When Hillary learned more about the Deaf community, she realized a large majority of the community did not support cochlear implant surgery. Even without their support, they continued forth with the surgery to allow Ryland to hear. In what ways did this struggle parallel the next challenge they would face with Ryland's gender transition?
2. After Ryland received the cochlear implants, Hillary and Jeff disagreed on whether or not to allow Ryland to continue to use ASL, which reflects a dispute present in the deaf community as well. Why do you think the medical community and the Deaf community don't see eye to eye on whether to continue ASL after a child is implanted?
3. When Ryland began to express his identity by wearing boys’ clothing, the Whittingtons wrote it off by simply saying he was a tomboy. If we use the term tomboy to describe a girl who behaves in a stereotypically masculine way, what term would be similar for a boy who prefers stereotypically feminine behaviors? Why is our society more accepting of girls in cross play, verses boys? Why do you think transgender boys would come out as transgender, on average, much later than many transgender girls?
4. Hillary initially confused Ryland's gender variance as Ryland’s sexual preference, terms that are often mistaken. At what ages do children typically develop their gender identity and their sexual preference? What are the potential ramifications a young transgender child can face as a result of the confusion between gender identity and sexual preference?
5. It wasn’t until Jeff attended the parent support group meeting that he finally came to terms with Ryland’s identity. Why do you think it is often times more difficult for a father to cope with their child being gay or transgender?
6. When Melissa asked to take Ryland out of the wedding, Hillary wrote Melissa a letter to stand up for Ryland and their family’s choice to respect Ryland’s identity. She later grows to regret the wording of her letter and the rift in their relationship. How would you have handled this situation differently?
7. When the Whittington’s realized that Ryland was transgender, their immediate response was to turn outward to family, friend, professionals, and support groups to learn more about parenting a transgender child and to find acceptance and encouragement. How did they transfer these experiences to their relationship with Ryland?
8. Ryland’s relationship with clothing is a source of pain before his transition and a source of comfort and acceptance after his transition. What role do you think clothing plays in every child’s life as they try to build their own identities?