Including, supporting, and protecting transgender youth

By Andrea Persephone Sand, Minnesota NOW Affirmative Action Chair

I am a gender-breaking individual, and I feel this is the one time I can speak for my community of all gender-varying peoples without excusing myself for doing so.

Stop abandoning us and leaving us behind. We need protection, and nothing is more irritating or blood-boiling than those who falsely claim to be for “full LGBT rights” yet really mean “just LG rights”. This is where I stop speaking for anyone other than myself, because I am not a voice for the masses unless they say I am. I am only a voice for myself and those who stand behind me. I don’t know who they are, and I claim no following.

That out of the way, I’d like to focus for a moment on one of our most at-risk populations: students. This is to the Aurora County School Board in Illinois first and foremost due to their fish-out-of-water stance on trans- protection: Stop flip-flopping and get back in the right pond and protect students who often cannot protect themselves. Numbers have floated around varying that anywhere between 40 to over 50% of transgender youth attempting suicide before age 20. It is not unheard of for those as young as 7 to make an attempt on their own lives to escape a world that refuses to see them as they are. Worse, there is a total global population suicide rate of 31% to 50% (depending who in the community you speak to, and which surveys you use). These numbers don’t come from nowhere. Nobody has ever woken up one day and said to themselves ‘man I’m bored, let’s try suicide!’. Nobody wants to die, it is hard-wired in to us. When one runs out of coping mechanisms, when they no longer know how to deal with the pain they are facing, it is only then that suicide is the next step. What sickens me to my core is that we allow people to walk that plank by our own cruelty and indifference.

By flip-flopping on issues, by being lazy and half-assed on a stance, we are allowing children to come to harm for no other reason than they dare to be themselves. We all must stand up and say ‘enough is enough and too much is too much,” we must draw a line and say ‘this far, no further.” We seem too content to allow groups that we are not a part of to be pushed to the side, marginalized, and walked upon with cruel disregard to their lives. Worse, this ass-backwards sense of communal isolationism means that groups for whom few stand and fight for are allowed to be persecuted and taunted, humiliated and shamed with almost no rebuttal or swift retribution.

The moment a self-proclaimed ‘loving, tolerant’ monotheist group screams that their rights are being infringed upon, we feel obligated to back down even if it means allowing hate and bigotry to continue to thrive. I am a Religious Humanist and I acknowledge that religion is an intricate part of humanity; it has been since we habitated caves. We cannot deny the aspect of us that yearns to believe in something higher than us tending to the light at the end of the tunnel, but maybe, like Dr. Thompson once said, that was the folly of the acid junkies of the 70’s. At no time should someone’s personal religious views or narrow-minded ideologies be allowed to infringe upon the happiness and lives of another group.

I know it may sound hypocritical to those who don’t understand things like ‘compassion’ and ‘consent,’ but when I speak out against those speaking out against us, I am not trying to silence them. Simply I am saying keep your hateful views, but keep them privately behind closed doors where you say our lives belong. Happiness is also an intricate, intrinsic part of humanity and the human condition and should never, under any circumstances, be abridged for anyone.

(Though I understand where people like that come from. Before I accepted myself, before I fully embraced who I am, while I still ran from the truths I had been taught were undesirable, I too was a hateful bastard. I hated seeing people happy doing what I only wished I could do.)

This bullying comes from us and passed on to the next generation. When we say faggot to each other in public, that’s where kids learn it. They see us hurl it as an insult, they hear us say “that’s so gay” in scorn at a situation we don’t like and correlate “gay” with “undesirable.” When it’s children against children it’s called bullying, when adults do it to each other it’s business as usual. We ourselves are passing on the demons that haunt us to the next generation. 

So to East Aurora School District 131, and by extension the Anoka-Hennepin school district for letting a member of a hate group help (though I think ‘hinder’ is more apt) with an anti-bullying task force: grow a spine and be that voice screaming ‘enough!’  Be the people who knew what was the humane thing to do and draw that line for us. You have powers I only wish I had–in your hands is the ability to safeguard all of your students and give them the chance to thrive. Instead of making school in to more of a brutal prison, restore it to being a place of education and acceptance.

I am sick of those who say they are for us and then actively work against us. Put your heels in the dirt and push back! Our children are the ones suffering!


Trans Youth Support Network (based in Minneapolis!)

Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund

National Center for Transgender Equality