A response from the National TRUTH Council
Last Friday, the Obama administration stood behind a letter, addressed to every public school district throughout the nation, offering guidance in supporting transgender students.
As young transgender students ourselves, we heard him.
As young transgender people with access to social media, we also hear everyone else (including those strongly opposed).
It has been incredible to watch the nation navigate its understanding and opinion of the transgender community, which seems to be the newest vulnerable community after the success of marriage equality.
As transgender millennials, we seem to be getting the backlash of it all. Yet with lives of young people at risk everyday, we need the nation to realize one thing: this really is not a conversation about restrooms. Instead, this is a conversation about whether or not we are ready to empower the next generation to live as who they truly are on school grounds, bring about the next wave of change and education, and yes, pee in peace.
Throughout the fight for marriage equality, it had seemed that America became used to the idea that two people of the same gender could fall in love (as if love really knew of any gender). It’s likely that this success was rooted in the reality that even if queer love questioned the tradition of how many “designated genders” were in a relationship, it didn’t question the centuries of what we knew about “gender” itself. The visibility of individuals who did challenge that social structure however, like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock and Jacob Tobia, caught the nation off guard and helped educate a large number of people. Could someone really be a gender that they weren’t assigned at birth? Yes, they can be. Then comes the next question: could young people that are in high school, middle school, and even elementary, know that their gender was also different? The answer: A definite yes.
The foundation of truly supported transgender people lies in validating their gender, regardless of how young they come out. In the same exact way our society does not question someone with a vagina when they say, “I’m a girl,” or another young person with a penis when they say, “I’m a boy,” we need to stop questioning transgender people when they assert their gender.
As we navigate our adolescent years and work our way through school, the last thing we need is to be questioned about is one thing we may be thinking about every minute of the school day. Throughout elementary, into middle and high school, we are encouraged to be ourselves, love who we are and avoid peer pressure to conform, but this seems to end when we speak the words: I am transgender.
We also get that this is “new”. Well, not really new… transgender people have existed since people themselves have existed. The concept of young individuals introducing a new wave of change-filled conversation is something this nation knows all too well and needs to embrace.
The reality is, the generations that fill the seats of Congress and state legislatures were robbed of an education that was accurate and inclusive when it comes to diversity. We get it, and we know that this is a big part of why it is so hard to stand behind a movement that you know nothing about. But the beauty of America is the history of new deals, new chances and new knowledge. The best way to educate ourselves is to listen to those trying to speak and be heard.
Allow young transgender people to tell you who we are, what we need and how you can support the success of our entire generation.
And last, but certainly not least, while we may have started this piece saying, “this really is not a conversation about restrooms,” the nation has done a good job at making it literally about restrooms for the time being. So, let us pee.
If you like numerical approaches, we’ll tell you that there have been zero (zip, none, nada, etc) reported cases of transgender students using the restroom to harm another student. On the flip side, 75 percent of transgender students feel unsafe on school campus (while also fearing for our general safety outside of campus.)
If you’re feeling a more emotional approach, we’ll tell you that it really comes down to transgender youth asking to be given the exact same treatment as our peers receive: the freedom to be who we are and to pee where we feel like our bodies are not endangered.
If you appreciate logical approaches, let us break it down for you: We. Just. Need. To. Pee.