When I posted about Jake’s one-year transition anniversary last month, someone made the comment that it was a great time for a young person to be transgender. Had they told me that a year ago, I think I would have broken down into a puddle of tears and anguish.
A great time to be transgender.
This past Monday, I attended the Township High School District 211 Board meeting, where they decided the fate of a trans student whose civil rights had been violated for more than two years. I heard the very ugly insults and names hurled at speakers in her support. I heard the roar of approval when a teenage girl came up to say that she felt bullied by Student A and Student A’s supporters, because she wouldn’t go along with what they wanted. I saw the fervor in their eyes as they shook their signs angrily and passionately in the air as the police escorted a very loud opponent who interrupted the school board meeting, talked out of turn and refused to give the floor back to the speaker who had been granted it.
A great time to be transgender. I wonder how Student A feels about that.
I wonder if she feels it’s great to be transgender, as she hides behind her privacy curtain in the girls’ locker room, in her designated area segregated from her peers. I wonder if she feels it’s great to be transgender, passing that teenage girl in the hall, the one who spoke against her rights, against the rights of all trans people. The girl that said she’d gladly share make-up secrets with Student A, but not a changing room.
I think…I hope, that despite everything, she does feel it is a great time. It’s because of pioneers like her that it is a great time.
Jake and I have faced the same discrimination, before I knew I could make a stand. His theatre group refused to allow him access to the boys’ changing room. A room where no one removed all of their clothes, where an adult chaperone was present at all times, and where the boys hung out, laughed, and bonded before the show began.
I was told that Jake might make some of the older boys uncomfortable and they might tell their parents and then there might be an issue, and they didn’t want an issue. I recall the more than 400 parents, waving signs and banners, both for and against, on Monday night, and I wonder if that’s the kind of issue they want to avoid.
Too often, parents like me, with children like Jake, back down. We keep quiet. We move to the back of the bus and try not to make waves. We worry for the safety of our children, for what others might say, about them and to them, that can never be un-said. So many children like Jake live in stealth, afraid of what people will say and do if they ever find out they’re trans. It breaks my heart to think that anyone has to live that way. That my own son might one day choose to live that way.
And too often, organizations and groups and districts choose the safe route. They don’t want any issues. They don’t want anyone being uncomfortable. So they side with the majority. They make policies and rules and laws that suit the majority. That make life easy for the majority. That make life comfortable for the majority.
Except my son wasn’t comfortable having to race through the halls to the boys’ bathroom, dragging his costume over his shoulder, to hide in a stall and change in private. He knew that kids in his play who never knew he was trans would start asking questions. And other kids might talk. He knew that every time he made that walk, he was outing himself as different.
Student A wasn’t comfortable changing for gym in a separate area, apart from her peers and classmates. She knew that every time she came out of her separate but equal changing area, her classmates knew. Every time, they were reminded that she was trans. Every time, in the back of her mind, she might think of the violence and discrimination and harassment that trans women all over the world experience every day, simply for being trans. I bet her mother thinks about the trans women, over 20 so far, who have been murdered in the US alone, just because they were trans. I know I do.
I chose not to speak up, for fear of it going public, for fear of the backlash in the community when people were forced to take sides. I chose not to speak up, to protect my seven-year-old son from harassment and ugliness. From having a roomful of angry, hateful parents deliberately misgender him, claim he wasn’t a “natural” boy, or that his genitals were all that mattered to the person he was.
But Monday night, I saw hundreds of loving and supportive people, allies of every kind, who came out to show their support. I heard teenage students, boys and girls, in Student A’s school raise their voices in support. I heard parents and doctors and teachers, again and again and again, get up and say, “this is not good enough, we demand equal rights for every student.”
Does it mean that the next time my son is excluded because he’s trans, that I’ll speak up? I wish I could say, a million times yes, but I don’t honestly know. I hope that I’ll be able to.
But I’ve learned that now I can. I’ve learned that my son will have an army of supporters to surround us, to stand beside us, to fight with us, and to ensure that my son, that all trans people, are treated equally. I hope that other parents, in other communities, isolated and fearful and not able to speak up, learn that too.
And the hate groups, like the parents on Monday night who refused to acknowledge that Student A was a girl, that said they wanted to protect the majority from the minority, that presumed, again and again, to know Student A better than she knew herself…they’ve learned too and I think they’re scared.
It truly is a great time to be transgender.
Don't miss my video on Listen to Your Mother where I share my story of Jake's transition.
Interested in learning more about my son? Read Portrait of a Transgender Child. You can read my latest post here: An Open Letter to Superintendent Cates and District 211 Board Members
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