“Transgender first-graders aren’t the problem. Uninformed adult are,” writes Leela Ginelle of TransActive Education and Advocacy (http://www.transactiveonline.org/index.php) in today’s Advocate.
As California prepares for a fight over AB 1266, which affords rights to transgender students, issues of gender identity are likely to land in the national spotlight in coming months. As Ginelle continues:
“Our culture doesn’t wait for newborns to tell us what gender they are — we decide for them and then put it in writing. As soon as transgender children can speak, however, they correct us, and, increasingly, their parents listen to and affirm them. As we’ve seen recently, this can lead to confusion and even conflict among less-informed adults.
“When Colorado 6-year-old Coy Mathis tried to use the girls’ restroom at her school, the district attempted to block her, leading to a case that drew national attention. The district thought a transgender girl wanting to use the girls’ bathroom was a little weird or that other people might or that someday it might be.
Transgender people have long been stigmatized as mentally disordered. But an outside observer of this case, in which a public school legally fought to prevent a grade schooler from using a bathroom, might draw different conclusions as to who needs help. And they might have a point. TransActive Education and Advocacy is a first-of-its-kind nonprofit that offers counseling and services to transgender children and their families, and trainings to schools, corporations, and other groups. When families contact us, their children are often displaying depression, and that’s common. Eighty-three percent of trans children and youth report ideating taking their own life, and 32 percent report at least one suicide attempt. Suicide is the number 1 cause of death among transgender youth. While every case is different, the cause of these children’s distress is not their transgender identity. Commonly, rejection by their families and the wider community is at the root of their issues. This rejection, a product of blind antitrans prejudice, founded on generations of unquestioned beliefs regarding gender roles, deviance, and “normalcy” and bolstered by a relentlessly negative media, is as pervasive as it is baseless.
We encounter this prejudice at times when advocating for families with school districts and organizations around the country. While many are affirming and happy to support the trans children and youth in their populations, others hedge and seek ways to avoid compliance with inclusive policies. The latter groups generally voice “discomfort” with transgender children, particularly with regard to the bathrooms (as though transgender children experience no discomfort being stigmatized by the school they’re compelled to attend).