With everything that is happening in the world right now — you know, like a global pandemic — it might be hard to see the glass as half full. Everyone has had to adjust their lives just three months into the new decade; and folks, it’s been difficult.
Those of us who are members of the transgender community are in a similar boat; though it’s slightly more complicated to steer. The COVID-19 virus has put gatherings and events on hold which is devastating for trans people who depend on having their community around them for support. Sheltering in place takes on a new meaning when a trans person might not have a safe or affirming home or family to turn to. Gender-affirming surgeries have been put indefinitely on hold — my own scheduled surgery included — procedures that can be life changing, life affirming, and even life saving for a lot of folks.
And for our youth, with school cancelled for the semester, there may not be access to supportive friends or teachers for the transgender students who need them.
But today, International Transgender Day of Visibility, we’re focusing on the positive, because we have to. Today is a day where it’s especially important for our trans community — in Texas, in the U.S., and around the world — to know that they are seen, heard, valued, and loved. It’s so important that allies be present for the most marginalized of us, which many times can be transgender youth.
It’s really not that difficult to be an ally to a transgender student, neighbor, co-worker, friend, or family member; today or any day. It can be as simple as standing up against trans discrimination when you see or hear it — whether or not a trans person is even around. For transgender students specifically, being an ally might look like a teacher who provides a safe space for a trans youth to eat their lunch. Or parents joining together to pressure school administrators to provide gender affirming bathrooms for trans students needing them.
You can also be an ally by checking out the ACLU of Texas’ array of resources for LGBTQ students. The ACLU of Texas actively protects the rights of transgender youth throughout the state. From winning access to bathrooms and locker rooms for trans students, challenging discriminatory dress codes that force students to conform to gender stereotypes, or empowering LGBTQ youth to advocate for the issues they care about, we are committed to defending and expanding the rights of trans Texans at school board meetings, at the legislature, and in courtrooms.
So whether you’re a parent, teacher, principal, or caring friend: read up, speak up, and show up for the transgender youth in your life. If you run out of ideas on how to be an ally, there are plenty of other ideas out there.
And if you’re a trans young person reading this right now, remember you have so many people in your corner. My own support for you comes in the form of a reminder: Remember that some of the negative things that are happening right now will not always be this way. Whether it's being at home with an un-affirming family, not yet having surgeries or your name and gender marker corrected (if that’s something you want), or even what seems like a lack of control over your own future.
When I was younger, I could not imagine all of the things that were to come, like serving in the U.S. Air Force, attending college, forming my career, and now working for the ACLU of Texas! I am so grateful I hung in there and was able to write my own narrative in life.
Now more than ever, it's important to be gentle with yourself and to (virtually, for now) lean on your support system. Hang in there, because you matter! And if nobody else has told you today, I love you and I’m proud to call you my family and community.