It is a scary time to be a transgender youth in America right now. We are incredibly vulnerable; the United States has seen a recent onslaught of anti-trans and queer bills. Many of these bills target transgender and nonbinary minors specifically. Living in Pennsylvania, I have been lucky enough to remain mostly unaffected from these bills. However, my trans siblings in other states have not been as fortunate.
Maybe tomorrow, a kid like me will be taken off their sports team. Eighteen states currently ban transgender students from playing on teams that match their gender identity. Spoiler alert: no one transitions just to have an advantage in sports. No one goes through social and physical changes or endures crushing transphobia in order to win a few more tennis games or diving competitions. Transition is personal; it is done to become closer to one’s true self. Maybe tomorrow, a kid like me will be told they can’t take their hormones. Transgender people often take masculinizing or feminizing hormones in hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. These are the hormones that make them feel at home in their minds and bodies. At least 20 states are looking to pass laws that would penalize parents, guardians, and medical providers who give gender-affirming care to minors. Maybe tomorrow, a kid like me will be taken from their parents because they support their child’s identity. Maybe tomorrow, a kid like me will be too afraid to say gay in their classroom. When queer youth are silenced and discriminated against like this, their valuable voices are taken away.
Maybe yesterday, a kid like me was deadnamed and misgendered by their teachers. The kid had to choose between being outed to their parents or being called the wrong name and pronouns at school. Maybe yesterday, a kid like me was called slurs in the hallways by students who have not been taught tolerance. Maybe yesterday, a kid like me looked in the mirror, and saw only the names they were called. The ones before their eyes were the ugliest, most hurtful ones. Maybe yesterday, a kid like me heard someone say, “Transgenderism must be eradicated.” And that kid did not know how to cope with hearing that kind of hate.
But maybe today, a person like you will stand up for the transgender people in their life. A person like you will extend a helping hand and a listening ear to a trans person in need. A person like you will show defiance towards hate and bigotry. If you are truly an ally of queer youth, you must show it. I want you to fall asleep at night with an easy conscience. I want you to wake up every day knowing that you are doing what you can to help the LGBTQ+ people in your life.
I am a senior in high school, and living as a queer student in this district has not always been easy. I have identified many different ways throughout my 12 years. Supportive friends and spaces have luckily given me the room to grow into myself. I want to graduate in three months, knowing my classmates and I felt safe enough to succeed in this district. But if my grades start slipping, forgive me. If my GPA drops because I am terrified, every day, of living in a country where kids like me are stripped of their rights, forgive me. I am exhausted. I have pushed myself my whole life to achieve academically. I am proud of the grades I have earned, but my perspective has changed. Academics used to be my number-one priority. Now, I feel that if I have made one queer student in this district feel a little less alone, a little less scared, then I will value that over any report card I came home with. I may be graduating this spring, but there are thousands of students who have more than three months left in this district. There are gay students, lesbian students, bisexual, asexual, nonbinary, transgender students, and so many more. Some of them will grow up always knowing who they are. Some of them, like me, will need time, questioning their identities and experimenting with new labels. No matter how a student identifies, you must support them. Use the names and pronouns they ask you to. Vote for politicians that will uplift them, not crush them. Trans youth need helping hands from their local community as they watch their country try to tear them down.