My heart aches as transgender people across the nation are under attack from politicians who refuse to understand or empathize with the challenges we face. Last week the Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to bar trans people from using the bathroom of the gender they live as — including trans students in schools. And this comes just weeks after President Trump rescinded the guidance aimed at protecting trans students — opening the door for schools to discriminate against trans kids.
For trans students, these are both acts of terror and erasure. They are attempting to delegitimize trans kids — stripping them not just of the right to use the bathroom but also of the right to attend school without fear of being hurt physically or emotionally. Children should be able to walk into their school without snide comments from teachers and administrators, and they should be able to play the sport they love as the gender they identify with.
In my senior year of high school, just before graduation, I came out as a queer trans man. I did not have protections at the time, and it’s devastating knowing some trans boys and girls and nonbinary kids who had protections a few weeks ago now no longer have them.
I think back to a day this past summer when I was working on Capitol Hill as a Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute congressional intern. Walking through the Hart Senate Office Building, I entered and left three different bathrooms until I found one where I could immediately enter a stall and avoid the stares of people wondering why I wasn’t using a urinal.
It was upsetting until I realized I had the support of my office. I had the respect of staffers who would ask me about trans issues to better understand the lived experience of a trans person. I had allies. But I also had white, middle-class privilege — I am a queer trans man from a small rural town, but I was interning on Capitol Hill. What about the rest of the LGBTQ community? What about the fifth-grade trans girl of color who cannot find a bathroom without being bullied and has no support from the school administration or her parents? Who stands up for her?
There's enough hate in this world, and all people need to actively work to counter it. We need to fight to provide trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex, and nonbinary kids the privilege of enjoying childhood. Let them be safe and loved and show them they matter. Now is the time to stand up with and for these children and for all LGBTQ people.
The discrimination and injustices I faced as an undergraduate student — being told not to use the bathroom of my gender identity, being harassed, denied therapy, being called by my birth name in class and so much more — led to a suicide attempt. At first, the university asked that I not return. Not because of the attempt on my life, but because I was transgender, and the university was unaware how to accommodate me. But I fought back; it is part of what made me an activist. And now I’m standing against President Trump’s travel ban and against his Title IX reversal, and speaking out against the proposed legislation in Texas.
If it was not for the few who stood by me and the issues that inspire me, I would not be here today. It led me to the Victory Institute congressional internship, where I learned that LGBTQ public leaders are crucial to shaping public policy and advancing equality. And it led me to continue my studies in sociology, which I plan to use to ensure all LGBTQ people are welcomed and protected.
My story is of course mine, but in many ways is not unique. It was not until I had continually faced opposition and discrimination in my undergrad years that activism became a part of my journey. Now I urge others to stand up and believe in themselves. You don’t have to be a leader or even be a follower, but you do have to stand up. LGBTQ people, especially youth, need our help. We are a diverse community of amazing individuals, and everyone is part of our community and needs to know we will fight for them. It is time to stand up.