With our son revealing himself as transgender, we delved into educating ourselves on trans issues, forming a deeper understanding of the things a Black transgender child’s mother wants you to know.
When our kid came out as transgender, he was 13 years old. The summer following his eighth-grade year. I’ll never forget the night in the hotel room when he told us he’d come to terms with his gender identity and realized he was a male. He introduced himself and told us that he prefers to be referred to as “he” or “him.” It never occurred to us that our son might be transgender, even though he has never presented as a traditional female. This sealed the deal.
Rejection was never an option for us. My spouse and I consider our children to be divinely crafted miracles. This announcement did not alter that acceptance. We had to catch up quickly on our knowledge of trans identity. To better comprehend our child and this moment, we dove into educational books, podcasts, YouTube channels, and whatever else we could get our hands on. To properly fight for our kids, we recognized we needed to educate ourselves about trans identity, history, language, and rights, especially in the school system, where Black youth experience bigotry.
It’s been four years since then. Our son is now a senior in high school, a remarkable and bright 17-year-old, and he is applying to universities. Being a young Black person in America is difficult, and being a young Black trans person is much more so. The UCLA Williams Institute on Law estimates that there are currently 1.6 million transgender people in the United States, including both men and women. There are a quarter of a million young people among these people. The value of visibility in fostering understanding and acceptance, both outside and inside Black communities, has been brought home to us. Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union are one of the most influential families because they openly discuss their transgender daughter Zaya and frequently display her in public. However, more than just a few high-profile individuals need to come out in favor of Black trans youth. Truly, it does take a community. Please come back to help us.
Here are five suggestions for making the world a more secure place for Black transgender adolescents.
1. You don’t have to grasp anything to show compassion and respect fully.
I want you to picture being asked to describe black holes or the expanding universe. It’s quite unlikely that you could. But just because you don’t grasp how they work doesn’t mean they disappear. When it comes to appreciating the LGBTQ community, I feel the same way. Black queer adolescents do not need us to comprehend queer identity before we can treat and provide for them with respect.
The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) 2021 National School Climate Survey indicated that transgender children faced the most hostile school climates relative to their peers, with trans boys reporting more negative experiences than nonbinary kids and trans girls. Those who stuck it through had much lower GPAs, missed more classes due to fears for safety, and had less ambition to further their education.
Black and other students of color who identify as LGBTQIA+ face double standards and double discrimination. “LGBTQ+ students of color commonly experienced both racist and anti-LGBTQ+ victimization at school,” states the GLSEN 2021 study. “LGBTQ+ students of color were more likely to experience multiple forms of victimization than White LGBTQ+ students.” The poll also recognizes the likely underrepresentation of Black LGBTQIA+ students in academic research.
The efforts of the Black community in aiding the Black youngsters must be increased.
Our schools should be places where every child can learn in peace and grow into successful adults.
2. Ask and adjust your pronoun usage accordingly if you are unclear about someone else’s.
Too many people have expressed “annoyance” over the need to inquire about the pronouns of trans and nonbinary young people, and I’ve seen this happen too often. When corrected, some people become angry. I challenge you to find a cisgender guy or woman who wouldn’t have the same expectation if they were mistaken about their gender. It’s natural to care about how one’s name is spelled and talked about. However, since assumptions are often incorrect, it is prudent to inquire. When in doubt, just ask. What pronouns do you use? Don’t make folks who don’t comply with the binary the only ones in the spotlight; provide your own.
You don’t have to know everything immediately. Do better now that you know better.
3. Realize that using coercion, such as shaming or guilting others into submission, is harmful and unacceptable.
When presented with anything novel or different, many individuals react negatively by trying to put others down, accusing them of wrongdoing, or condemning them. We really mean, “Why can’t you just be normal like other boys and girls?” or “Why do you have to dress that way, act that way, and be that way?” When we demand that other people conform to our standards of acceptable behavior, we are essentially saying that their rights, views, and experience don’t matter as much as ours. The burden of dealing with the pain caused by the guilt and humiliation is on the person who has been victimized.
The effects of this kind of bullying on the emotional well-being and success of LGBTQIA+ adolescents can be devastating. A study by the Trevor Project, a crisis and prevention charity for LGBTQIA+ youth, found that one-third of Black transgender teens who identify as such have tried to kill themselves in the past year. In addition, it discovered that Black transgender and nonbinary youth have twice the risk of attempting suicide as their cisgender Black LGBTQIA+ counterparts.
The emotional well-being of our children is too precious to allow this to continue. We need to stand up to the push to fit in.
4. Going may not always be easy, but you must press on.
When it comes to discussing LGBTQIA+ identity or non-binary gender expression with children, many people experience anxiety and discomfort. They might assume their unease indicates that their explanation is incorrect. Instead, they should try to put themselves in their children’s shoes and imagine how awkward it would be to have the “sex talk” with them. It’s not always incorrect just because it makes you uncomfortable.
We must initiate conversations regarding gender identity with young people. Therefore, sweating is OK. Don’t worry about it; this is very normal.
5. Cast your ballot in favor of fairness and democracy.
Respect for trans people is a human right. This is a powerful statement in Black communities, where issues like voting rights and safety regularly appear on the ballot. We must work hard to give everyone, including the trans people, the freedom they deserve.
Each deliberate action can make the world a better place for Black trans adolescents.
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