The Freedom to Be

Stories from Transgender Youth, Adults, and Their Families

A must read for anyone doing the critical work of social transformation. Parents, teachers, school administrators, health care providers, civic leaders, faith organizations, lawmakers, and allies will learn what is needed to better support the transgender community.


Ensign’s book, The Freedom to Be, is a year-long social justice project honoring the voices of transgender youth, parents of transgender children, and adult transgender men and women. We hear from Andru, who was kicked out of his home and left homeless at age 16. We hear from parents about the struggles their transgender children faced over bathroom use. We hear from educated transgender adults who faced employment discrimination, along with acts of verbal and physical violence. We hear of the killings of transgender people, especially black and Latinx transgender women. As several people in the book emphasize, “The killings and harassment of trans people needs to stop.”

Included are Practical Action Steps for Allies, written in conversation with Kit Malone, who works on behalf of the transgender community in various capacities at the ACLU of Indiana and as a Board Member of Trinity Haven (LGBTQ provider for homeless youth). 

A percentage of the profits from “The Freedom to Be” will go to support LGBTQ organizations including Trinity Haven, Indiana’s first residential housing for LGBTQ young people at risk of homelessness, and the Sophisticated Divas program at BU Wellness.

Buying signed copies directly from Diana supports her work. 

Important: Signed books ship to the US only. International orders can be fulfilled by Amazon.

Purchase multiple signed books here.

The Freedom to Be Book Cover

The Freedom to Be was selected as a Gold Medal winner in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs). It was chosen as an Outstanding Book of the Year in the Freedom Fighter category.


Award-winning author, Diana J. Ensign, practices the art of listening to people who teach us how to love and care for one another on this human journey. Here, transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming teens, adults, and family members voice an urgent call for freedom: The freedom to pursue dreams, to work in meaningful jobs, to be free of hatred and violence, to love one another, and to be who they are.

This book underscores the essential human need for safety, connection, acceptance, and for policies that ensure every family is valued.

With these candid and insightful narratives, we learn practical ways that parents, educators, healthcare providers, neighbors, friends, and allies can create supportive communities for transgender individuals.

Through compassionate understanding, The Freedom to Be guides us toward a more loving world. Together, we can stop the violence, end the hatred, advocate for LGBTQ equality, and stand for freedom.

Click back cover image to enlarge.

The Freedom To Be Back Cover


“I have known Diana Ensign for almost 15 years, and I appreciate more than anything her compassionate heart, her desire to make a difference in the world, and her willingness to listen, learn, and love. … I am thankful for her willingness to listen – to herself, to others, and to the spirit which calls her to a higher purpose. … May you learn these things about Diana as you explore the offering in The Freedom to Be, and may you learn a bit more about our trans friends, family, strangers and neighbors. May your heart be as open as hers to learning more about others and about yourself.” 
—Jenni White, Executive Director of Trinity Haven (from the book’s Forward, which she wrote) 

“We’re all people, and we’re all here for a reason … the best way to get things done is to just do it with love.”
—Adru Lanning (student)

“We have one job: to love and support our children.”
Karen (parent) 

“Just give our trans community their roses before it’s too late.”
—Sa’hara Miller

“The people who thrive are the ones who are accepted in the workplace, in their homes, in their places of worship, and in their educational environments.”
—Dr. Philip B. (father)

“My hope is to bring a more positive light to the transgender community. It’s something that is not very understood.”
—Alex Erwin

“Communities and our country benefit when we have a wider array of citizens … our differences don’t make us evil. They just make us different.”
—Addison (Addi) Smith

The Freedom To Be wins the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) Outstanding Book of the Year Gold Medal!

“Recognizing Excellence in Independent Publishing,” the IPPY Awards showcase the best books from throughout North America and the English-speaking world. The 2020 Outstanding Books of the Year are selected for being “The most heartfelt, unique, outspoken and/or experimental.”

The Freedom to Be was chosen for this recognition in the Freedom Fighter category.

This is Diana Ensign’s second IPPY Gold Medal award; the first, in 2018, was for Heart Guide: True Stories of Grief and Healing.

IPPY Award Winner, Diana Ensign


“Diana Ensign has done it again! She has generated an amazing book that encourages us to listen, to learn, and to love. I have grown tremendously from reading these stories. They have moved my heart and will move me to action.”
—Franklin Oliver, History Instructor, Poet, Host of WhoDeannyPod Podcast 

The Freedom to Be highlights the amazing strength of LGBTQ+ people. Stories like these allow the youth at Indiana Youth Group (IYG) to know that life does get better, and they too can lead full, inspiring lives.”
—Chris Paulsen, Chief Executive Officer of Indiana Youth Group 

“Diana Ensign has captured the voice and experience of youth and adults who need and deserve to have their voices heard. As an educator, I believe The Freedom to Be could help begin informed, positive conversations between parents, teachers, and other adults with trans and nonbinary youth in their lives.”
—Dawn Merrill, Humanities & Technology (K-12) Teacher 

“This book is a great glimpse into several lives of transgender people and those close to them. The candid discussions help you feel connected to the individuals and serve to bring out our compassion. Each and every individual is unique, and these stories show that variety. As a parent to a transgender child, I recommend The Freedom to Be to family members, friends, and community members who want ideas on how to best support transgender individuals.”
—Steph B., Parent

“To be loved, valued, and accepted are basic human needs, but unfortunately all too rare for gender nonconforming and transgender people. As a clinical social worker, I’ve learned that society’s binary idea of gender is a fabrication that limits our individual creativity and potential. As The Freedom to Be shows, these are human beings who just want to live their lives in peace and without threat so they can realize their full potential. My hope is that the human race will evolve to the point where differences in gender expression are no longer feared and demonized but rather enhanced, embraced, and celebrated.”
— Tina Wiesert, Clinical Social Worker, LCSW

“The telling of human stories is always a timeless, brilliant venture. The act of writing these stories into human history begins to capture our truth. Sharing your own story authentically during this time in history is brave and bold. They cannot erase our being! May we all continue to be brave enough to share and bold enough to listen.”
—Kris Wise MSW, LCSW, Ally Counseling & Consulting

“This book is perfect for anyone wanting to better understand those who are transgender, nonbinary, and/or gender nonconforming. Instead of focusing on abstract concepts and statistics, Diana Ensign brings us face-to-face with real people who share the power of their personal experience. Open your heart, and let God speak to you through these amazing stories.”
— Rev. Jeff Miner, LifeJourney Church, Indianapolis 

“Diana Ensign has lovingly and poignantly documented the lives of people who have faced obstacles because of who they are or because of who they love. Each account moved me in different ways as she has managed to provide an array of perspectives and voices. As an educator for 32 years, I appreciate that each portrait powerfully taught a different lesson.”
—William Gulde, Educator (retired), Author

“As we begin the process of understanding who we are within the LGBTQ+ community, most of us are incredibly vulnerable, uncertain of our futures, and hoping to find compassion. In those beginnings, we rely on the willingness of others to share their stories with us, honestly and humbly, so we can become who we were always meant to be. The foundation of our community rests in the courage and the raw honesty of people like those in The Freedom to Be who are bravely living their truth of being queer.”
—Chris Handberg, Executive Director of Indy Pride, Inc


Indiana Arts Commission Logo

This project is made possible by the support of the Indiana Arts Commission, a state agency.

Proofreading: Addison (Addi) Smith, Transgender Educator, Board Member GenderNexus and Indy Pride.

Cover Photo Image: Mark A. Lee of Great Exposures (30 years of work in the LGBT community)

Author Photo: Emily Schwank of Raincliffs Photography (parent of non-binary child and LGBTQ ally)

Cover Design: Arcane Book Covers

What is your vision for your family and friends, your community, and your world?
Where can you apply your talents to aid the greater good?

Diana J. Ensign