This post has been weighing on my mind since early December. I wrote an Op-ed for the Advocate about public accommodations in schools for students who are transgender. Think about how being treated like everyone else in school can positively affect your day? Just before and after this piece came out there were several suicides within the transgender youth community. This saddens me that these individuals are gone and didn’t have the support and resources they needed. As an educator I want students to know that there are many of us who are here to support you, listen to you, and here to help you find resources.
I too once struggled to believe that if I took the steps I needed to be me I’d still be respected and cared for by my family, friends, and colleagues. Things haven’t been easy and for many years I’ve hidden myself, but I want to show others that you can push through challenging times as hard as it may seem. You define what it means to be an advocate.
I have many points of privilege daily. I have a job, a home, and family. I am a man and white, among other things. As I write this piece, I acknowledge that I experience a different perspective of privilege that most people don’t know about. I’m a man of transgender experience. You might ask yourself why do you see being transgender as a point of privilege? I have different sets of perspectives – I was raised and socialized as female and now am experiencing my authentic life as male. I have experienced life with being treated as a woman and now am learning to experience it as what I like to call me. I take these privileges with great care and use them to support, mentor, advocate, and challenge others who abuse them.
Standing before my classes day in and day out, I have had no fears of my students knowing my past. Over the last several years, I made a decision to become myself. I also felt that I had to hide part of my identity from my students and colleagues to stay in my profession as a Special Education Teacher in K-12 education. I made this choice. I feel that it would detract from what I set out to do each day, further my students academic skills through developing critical thinkers. I create critical thinkers in many ways, one of them is through having discussions and promoting the use of literature and other curriculum materials that discuss all kinds of humans.
My hope is that students who feel ready can find the support they need to be their authentic selves whether that be at home, school, online, or among other youth organizations. As I watch students and colleagues around me, my thoughts are confirmed – we need to do more for the generations to come so that students can be their authentic selves in a safe environment. The news of Leelah, Jay, Riley, and the hundreds of others that we haven’t heard about confirms that we educators and youth workers need to be there showing kids that there are places to turn for support beyond family. I’m stepping out in my own way to show through my writing, collecting resources, educating myself, and having essential conversations to help create that change in schools for trans youth.
Start the conversation in your school and classroom.