#ProtectTransKids and Dangers to Our Culture
It’s 11:30pm on Wednesday, February 22nd and on my walk home from campus a bald man with thick, dark eyebrows calls out to me “Hey miss, don’t think about it.”
I don’t hear him at first and think he might need directions somewhere so I turn around and ask what he said. He repeats himself, “Miss, don’t think about it.”
To this I don’t respond but turn and walk away quicker than I had before thinking that he might decide to follow me because as a woman who lives in New York city this is a thing I sometimes worry about when I walk home late at night. Tonight I am jumpier than usual because I have had a long but good day of class, work, and meetings but as I walk home I scroll through Instagram to see most of the people I follow posting things that say “protect trans kids” or captions with impassioned paragraphs about how we must stand up for our children regardless of their gender identity.
My heart immediately sank to my stomach thinking, “oh shit what did our president do now?” This question doesn’t feel unnatural to me now and I had somehow become numb to the horrifying answers I have come to expect but this one felt like a punch to the gut. I flipped through my rarely used news app to find what exactly had been done.
Finding the Human Rights Campaign’s response and explanation of what the current administration has announced I quickly read the first paragraph:
“The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education today revoked the Obama Administration’s guidance detailing schools’ obligations to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. While students are still entitled to the legal protections guaranteed by Title IX, today’s action obfuscates schools’ obligations to transgender youth -- who face disproportionately high rates of bullying, harassment and discrimination -- and sends a dangerous message that the current administration will not enforce inclusive policies or stand up for them at school.”
Somehow I’m shocked again by an administration who has already threatened the lives of people I care deeply about. And it wasn’t that this sweeping devaluing of people’s lives was any worse than what the current administration has done to refugees, immigrants, people of color, and all women, but it hit me a little bit harder.
In high school my friends and I spent a lot of time and energy trying to make our public school a safe space for students of all genders and sexual orientations. To this day if you go to our campus you will see a rainbow sticker with our school logo on it which meant that someone from our Gay Straight Alliance club had visited that classroom, presented on how to be a good ally, and asked the teacher in that room if they would display a sticker and commit to being a safe harbor for their LGBT students. We did all of this work at a time when the California state government had recently passed SB 48, a law that requires LGBT history to be included in public school curriculum. Which seems great except that it was rarely enforced. Even at a school like mine which happily embraced the work we were doing to create a really inclusive campus, teachers weren’t able to make time in their curriculum to spend more than a moment acknowledging important events or people in US history like the Stonewall Riots or Harvey Milk.
Similarly, when the Obama administration introduced their guidance for schools to protect and care for their trans students, not all schools enforced these recommendations. Which means it’s not as if the revoking of this guidance will immediately change the realities of young trans people if they were never followed in the first place. It does mean that people like me who grew up in public institutions as kids know that the government doesn’t have their backs. The kids I went to high school with whose gender was more fluid or is different now than when we were in school together already have enough to deal with when it comes to bullies and their own mental health let alone not being safe to use the restroom while at school for six hours everyday.
So tonight, when that man on the street called out to me, “Miss, don’t think about it” I couldn’t help but get angry. I couldn’t help but think of my friends who were closeted all of high school and have come out since as transgender or bisexual or any number of the identities we carry. I couldn’t help but think of how devastating it would have been for us to see this news and wonder if the fears we had of being alone were true. I can’t help but think about the kids who killed themselves when we were young. I can’t help but think of the kids I don’t even know who will take their lives or have taken their lives because this is the last straw. The final devastation that makes life worthless.
I wish I could just listen to the man who catcalled me tonight and just ignore it, just not think about it. But to be quite honest, I can’t. I can’t and I shouldn’t and if I were to give in to the pressure of the current administration to let trans kids think that they are less than their normative peers I would hate myself. So tonight I’m writing this angry thinkpiece and tomorrow I will protest. I will scream at the top of my lungs that trans lives matter and black lives matter and trans black lives matter and muslim lives matter and water is life and …
For now, I am donating to my hometown’s local LGBT center, North County Resource Center because I know the people who work there and the people who use their resources and have seen the good work being done there.