To the trans kid who is scared: I see you. I feel you. I've been there.
The Trump administration revoked President Obama’s executive order calling on administrators to make schools accessible to trans students by allowing youth to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching with their gender identity. And then, motivated by the administration’s action, the Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the case of teenager Gavin Grimm and instead sent it back to a lower court. Sadly, the anxiety and confusion caused by these actions are not new to our community.
I was one of those kids who on any given day from elementary to high school somehow avoided going to the bathroom for an eight-hour school day. My bladder hurts just thinking about it! I was scared for my safety as a young trans girl in rural Texas. My principal policed my gender daily. If I went to the boys’ restroom, I was assaulted and humiliated, and the idea that I could use the girls’ restroom was a distant dream. I don’t mention it often, but in elementary school, I had genital surgery that became necessary after complications incurred from not going to the bathroom all day. I had serious surgery to fix a condition that could and should have been avoided by common-sense policies.
Yet, recent legal action should provide hope. A federal court already agreed that gender identity and gender expression falls under Title IX, meaning that if you are a trans youth you still have the right to go to the bathroom and locker room that aligns with your gender identity. Joshua Block, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who represents Grimm, sent a letter to the Supreme Court justices to argue this point.
Unfortunately, what’s legal and what you need at school day-to-day doesn’t always align, especially with so much circling ambiguity and misinformation. Every trans person’s experience is different,, but we are stronger when we support one another. So here are six suggestions I hope will help you through these challenging times:
Don’t let fear keep you from getting the support you deserve.
Find refuge, advice, and allies who will support you. There are many national and statewide organizations available to help. Some of you have health centers and LGBTQ community centers nearby, while others will need to access online resources. Search for trans groups on Facebook; follow trans, gender-nonconforming and nonbinary gender people on Tumblr, Instagram, or Snapchat; and find breaking trans news on Twitter (or The Advocate!). You can also call Trans Lifeline to talk to another trans person.
Get empowered by your history.
Our culture is rich and dynamic. Our people have fueled the LGBTQ movement for generations. I recommend you watch Screaming Queens if you haven’t seen it and check out other trans documentaries here. Also, our trans foremothers like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and living legend Miss Major catalyzed coalitions to help shine a light on the issues that face many marginalized trans communities, including people who are immigrants, victims of violence, or unfairly incarcerated, or who have had to enter sex work. These efforts have been instrumental in addressing harmful policies and stigmas that disproportionately impact the trans community.
Identify and track the issues important to you.
Access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and public spaces is important but is the tip of the iceberg of trans issues. While federal and state governments are creating new laws that subject trans people to further discrimination, the repeal of Obamacare and the privatization of prisons will also disproportionately impact trans people of color. Learn more from the great organizations fighting for our rights: National Center for Transgender Equality, Transgender Law Center, and Lambda Legal.
#ShowUp4TransYouth and #StayLoud.
Who knows what’s best for trans youth? Trans youth! Use the compelling influence and strength of your voice to speak up on the issues that impact you right now. You matter. What you think and what you need to thrive matter. The louder we are, the more challenging it is for elected leaders and those in power to avoid us. Share your truth, be persistent, and make change. Trans and gender-nonconforming people have been resisting state violence since Compton’s Cafeteria, Stonewall, and most recently, the Occupy and #BlackLivesMatter movements. We must remain on the front lines to rail against hate.
Organize, organize, and organize!
It’s your first amendment right to participate in, or start, a trans club or Gay-Straight Alliance on your school campus. While participating in civil disobedience can be stressful at times, it’s important to find connection with your community and the allies who support you. Let GLSEN's Day of Silence give you confidence to take action. The April 21 event “is a student-led national event organized in thousands of schools, bringing awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.”
Deploy our collective power.
The current administration has used harmful stereotypes to push for discriminatory policies against Muslims, immigrants, undocumented residents, women, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, people of color, and the list goes on. Trans people by definition transcend binaries and build bridges between communities. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and I believe it’s time for the entire trans community to unite in solidarity with other oppressed groups. We are stronger when we work together to fight for equality, justice, and health for all.
While I don’t know you, I do believe in you. You have power, whether you feel it or not. Being trans is an asset that has made me a more compassionate and powerful leader. It’s OK to be scared, but never, ever give up. The world needs to hear your voice.
MIA "Tu Mutch" SATYA is vice president of external affairs for the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, vice-chair of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families' Citizens Oversight and Advisory Committee, and secretary of the San Francisco Young Democrats. Follow her on Twitter @miatumutch.