Writer Samantha Ball sits down with Ottawa’s Knox family in the wake of bestseller ‘Love Lives Here’
Six years ago last month, Alexis Knox came out as transgender to her parents.
Alexis, now 17, shared this with her parents in an email, not knowing what their reaction would be. It was acceptance – “we love you no matter what,” they told her over and over again – and it was more. Alexis’ choice to live as her authentic self was the catalyst that would change her entire family for the better.
Alexis’ strength and authenticity inspired not only others who heard about the family’s story, but also her own parents – Zoë Knox, who later came out as transgender herself, as well as Amanda Jetté Knox, who has become a well-known human rights advocate and speaker and who wrote the bestseller, “Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family.”
In her memoir, Amanda writes with openness about her challenging childhood and adolescence – from having been bullied mercilessly as a child to battling addiction as a teen. She shares about meeting the love of her life in 1993, and welcoming Aerik, now 23, at 19 years old.
Amanda doesn’t shy away from detailing their early years of struggle and poverty as a young family, and writes of the joy of expanding their family when they welcomed Alexis and Jackson, now 13. She writes with honesty and vulnerability about learning that her child and spouse were transgender and about how they are now thriving as a family despite some bumps along the way.
Says Aerik of reading Amanda’s book, “I just wanted to hug my teen moms and tell them it was all going to be OK.”
Zoë credits Alexis’ bravery as her inspiration to finally live her own truth, saying, “The last six years have meant everything because if Alexis hadn’t come out and shown me that it might be possible for me to do the same, I don’t think I’d be here today and before that, I wasn’t really living, I was only just kind of existing and we all suffered for it. In the last six years, it has really been a chance for all of us, but especially me, to kind of grow and really have a life and just really thrive and do all those great things that I always really wanted to do but just couldn’t.”
Adds Amanda, “Our relationship is so much stronger and healthier than it has ever been. It’s like our marriage got a second wind and I think that benefits the whole family. The whole family is happier because we’re happier.”
And that sentiment is palpable. This is a family that finishes each other’s sentences. They give spontaneous hugs. They laugh loudly together around the dining room table.
Ashley Lacasse fits right in as she sits next to Jackson and joins in on the sibling ribbing and laughter.
The newest addition to the Knox family, Ashley, 17, is Alexis’ “best friend-turned-sister.”
They met in middle school, with Alexis welcoming her as a friend immediately. They kept in touch over the years as Ashley changed living situations.
For Ashley, things came to a head a few years ago. After having been in and out of foster care most of her life and lacking stability (in 17 years, she had lived in 21 homes and attended 19 different schools) – Ashley had been placed in a home where she was completely miserable and increasingly worried about her future as she approached age 18.
“I was having a really bad day with the staff at the home I was at, and I called Alexis. I didn’t know who else to call. I didn’t have any other friends, nobody, only Alexis, crying, I had never cried in front of her before,” says Ashley.
Sensing the urgency, Alexis knew she had to take action.
As she recounts, “I came home and I said, ‘my best friend is struggling, she’s never had stability, she’s never had a place to thrive, she’s never really had anybody to look out for her best interests. I think it would be really great if we could bring her home and give her a place to do that.’”
Amanda and Zoë were open to the idea of having her join the family. She had been Alexis’ best friend for years and had spent lots of time at their home.
Said Zoë of Alexis’ request, “We thought…this is a great idea if we can make it work.”
Amanda had concerns pertaining to her own background, “I was always worried about whether or not I’d be found suitable and what I learned through the whole process is that they don’t really care as much what you’ve been through but more where it got you…So, have you cultivated resilience, do you know how to support a child who is in crisis? Maybe because you’ve been in crisis yourself before you know what that’s like and you can relate. So, all of those things really come in handy. They were actually benefits, in a lot of ways, especially when taking in a teenager. Ashley’s a pretty easy-going teen, but many teenagers have been through a lot of trauma and express that….and so, how do you handle a kid who has trauma and attachment issues? If you understand some of that yourself, it can sometimes be easier.”
Change – even happy change – isn’t always easy.
Jackson admits that he was uncertain about the idea of adding another sibling to the family, but now has “no regrets” about having a second sister.
“Jackson has been… the unsung hero in this family,” says Amanda of her 13-year-old. “He was seven when Alexis came out. He has grown up in so much change. He was nine when his other mom came out. We’ve gone from nobody knowing us, to the whole world, at least in certain circles, knowing who we are. Our family gets thrown a lot of hate, and a lot of love, but we still get a lot of hate. And then we add another child to the mix. And this amazing youngest child has just done his absolute best to roll with everything…he has made us all really proud.”
Jackson speaks with pride about how he’s educated friends on the issues faced by transgender people. He’s also been known to publicly stand up to adults who are disrespectful of the LGBTQ community.
The entire adoption process took over two years with Ashley moving in in March 2018 and the adoption being finalized in January 2020. Zoë outlined the detailed process – from home studies, to medical reports, references, and more – the family was thoroughly vetted.
The Knox family has legal custody of Ashley, however, it is officially a kinship placement which allows Ashley to keep her last name. This was important as Ashley maintains a relationship with her biological parents.
There were some growing pains for the girls who had to adjust to living together and a dynamic that changed from best friends to also sisters, but they have found the right balance now.
After Amanda made the happy adoption announcement on social media, the story was covered by the BBC and shared widely by multiple media outlets. Amanda was shocked to hear from a total stranger, who reached out to say that they understood Ashley’s struggles with stability and wanted to make a difference in her life by providing financially for her college education. This individual wishes to remain anonymous to the public and Amanda describes it as “truly an altruistic act.”
Amanda says of the adoption, “I don’t think before everybody came out that we would have had the capacity. I think we were barely surviving, a lot of us, in our own little secrets, in our own little bubbles of pain.
“Now that we are able to be who we are in the family and love each other for it, we had the capacity to take in and love somebody else, and I think it’s a testament to authenticity and acceptance. Because if you can do that in a family, then the love is just there.”
“I was honoured to sit down with the Knox family on the six-year anniversary of Alexis coming out – a pivotal moment for their family. This was the third time I have interviewed the family in six years, and each time the children have blown me away with their insight, wit, intelligence and emotional maturity. They are fun and welcoming. They are all children that any parent would be proud to have.”
- Samantha Ball, Parenting Times Magazine