The Importance of a Safe Space for Teens Finding Their Gender Identities by Ryan

March 22, 2017

 

The Importance of a Safe Space for Teens Finding Their Gender Identities

With a president in office that riles up everyone in the nation, many people let out their true feelings of discrimination. While many groups are targeted, I’ll be focusing on one topic, making LGBTQ+ feel safe in schools, focusing on transgender students. Transgender citizens across the United States are worried. They are worried about the future. Having this much worry is awful and to have it as a teen is even worse.

Being teen is hard enough. Most teens strive for good grades, great social life, and a sense of acceptance in themselves as they try to find out who they are. While teens don’t actually need to do soon, teens feel the need to define who they are and then choose to be proud of it or not. Transgender teens have the struggle of really finding out their gender identity and hoping that they are safe in their home, school, community. While some families can be accepting of their children, others are not, and that’s where the true discrimination begins. Families that are discriminatory teach their kids to be discriminatory. While I’m sure that no three year old is going to have a significant mindset to want to change genders, kids learn most of how they think at these ages. If acceptance and peacefulness was taught at a young age, at an older age, these kids would be more compassionate or at least not aggressively prejudiced towards minority groups. Having a safe environment at a young age is vital for any teen coming to terms with their identities. An example of a school that tried, and succeeded, to make their transgender students feel safe was at a school in Kentucky. Maddie Dalton, a transgender student, was coming to terms with her gender identity as a girl and it stirred up some problems at the school at first. Some parents did not want their girls to use the same bathroom as Maddie did. The school, Atherton High School, was trying to please both sides with the bathroom situation by giving a unisex bathroom for Maddie’s use, but Maddie informed them that that wasn’t what she was looking for. She just wanted to use the girls bathroom because she’s a girl and being told to use a different restroom lets her be an outlier and different and possibly makes her a target for harassment. The school eventually let Maddie use the bathroom of the gender she identified with, and while some people didn’t agree, they eventually just got over it and everyone just used the bathroom in peace. Maddie’s coming out and the whole bathroom situation led to more kids coming out as transgender because they felt like it was a safer environment.

It is vital that a safe environment is set and shown because even if it’s a safe place, some teens may not see it as one and that hinders their ability to make a move on their identities. In that story, the people with the most problems with transgender kids in certain bathrooms were the parents, and because of the intensity of discrimination, some people can’t win against it. An example of this is Mack Beggs, a transgender boy who loves to wrestle. By rules, he wasn’t allowed to wrestle against other boys, it was go with the rules or give up the sport, so he and his family went with the rules. But then Mack won the girls’ 110-pound category in a state tournament and people were not happy. Some people deemed it unfair, that because Mack was taking testosterone, he was cheating. Mack didn’t want to cheat or have an advantage so he took reasonable doses of testosterone. Some people forfeited matches because they didn’t think it was fair, well mainly their parents did. Mack did what he was told to do and still faced people being mad at what he does. In an environment where the odds are against you, it’s hard to win.

Teens absolutely need a safe place. Personally, I’ve had an amazing school and family to help me come to terms with my gender identity. Discovering I was pangender, meaning I identify as all genders and use pronouns he, she, and they, I had a easy time. While I can’t directly relate to a transgender teen as I can go into a bathroom labeled as my gender that’s on my birth certificate, I can understand that feeling of wanting to be accepted and safe. Without acceptance and safety, teens have a hard time. UCLA interviewed 6,000 people and 42% of trans women and 46% of trans men admitted to having attempted suicide in 2014. This isn’t even counting recent numbers as trans rights are being tampered with.

I think overall, my words I’d hope to be remembered are, “students need a safe environment to find themselves and need to be taught to accept others as they are.” As discrimination rises, we need to band together to fight it, and it starts with our youth.

 

Sincerely,

 

Joseph Morales

https://www.youthvoices.live/transsafehaven/