With Pride month upon us, I wanted to talk about some of the news in the last month about measures that states (Florida and Nebraska, notably) are taking to remove rights from trans people, specifically trans youth. As a queer person and educator, I’ve felt dissonance in certain spaces knowing that some people believe I have a personal life that isn’t appropriate or suitable for discussion. In most places, at best, there is a double standard for what’s considered “professionally appropriate” for teachers to share about themselves. For instance, many teachers won’t discuss their thinking about politics because of the idea that it might indoctrinate impressionable children. But the truth is, all the things we don't say or aren't allowed to say also have an impact on impressionable children; many impressionable children, for instance, get the clear message that they are not okay.
There is a lot about myself that I knew well before I turned 18 that’s still true now. I’ve written before about how I knew I was queer in high school and still couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge it until late in college (after a friend confided their own queerness to me) because I didn’t believe I would be okay. I think about how scared I was and how alone I felt. I had a wonderful group of friends, I had an older brother who I’ve always known I could say anything to, but it wasn’t enough. So, to read about the measures being passed in different states, I get angry because the real goal of these measures is to isolate and eradicate trans people.
There is a growing body of research that illustrates the incredible harms of loneliness and social isolation. Legislation that denies access to medical care for trans youth only serves to isolate them and increase their dysphoria. There’s a weak argument that children shouldn’t be exposed to issues of gender identity or sexuality because society “shouldn’t be sexualizing children,” but then there are an abundance of adults who talk about how babies “flirt.” That kind of behavior has been normalized, and it fits within the scope of heterosexual behavior, so it’s often not given a second thought. But none of the arguments about what’s right for trans youth center those youth; they center the comfort of those in power. The goals of these laws are to control trans youth, not protect them. True protection looks and feels different (like universal healthcare, adequate housing, access to food, and gun control).
This Pride month, if you’re queer, do what you can. Attend a rally or a parade, remind yourself that you’re lovable exactly as you are, maybe lift up a friend who needs to see their own worth through your eyes. If you’re an ally, make the rainbow flags in your space highly visible this month. Let your people know that you’re interested in protecting them, and then do something that aligns with that feeling (see what local queer organizations need, make some phone calls to your local representatives, make a monetary donation, etc.). If you’re not an ally, here’s my ask: Picture the person you love the most and imagine what would happen if they came out to you. Consider how you could engage your empathy to try to understand what that person might deal with. Consider those deep harms associated with loneliness and isolation. Sit with that feeling for a few minutes and try to be impressionable.