Saturday, March 2, 2013
The Rise of the Transgenderation?
Image courtesy of the Texas Triangle
As the transgender community we should all take a moment to silently thank Oprah Winfrey. Back in the early 2000’s Oprah was among if not the first and definitely the most highly profiled show to cover the topic of trans-youth. As anything Oprah touched, it would become a house hold topic. Sadly though, on November 18, 2003, Tesia Samara, 15, became yet another mournful trans-youth to commit suicide. Tesia was transgender and lived in the small town of Rockdale, Texas. After watching the Oprah show on being transgender, and like millions of others found a taste of self discovery. Happily she decided she wanted to begin hormone therapy. Before her death she had done her research and had been on HRT for three months. Her family was informed by her and gave her support and acceptance. School was another issue. There she was constantly bullied and was said to have been assaulted the day of her suicide according to the Texas Triangle. Her short life cut short and the promise of those who loved her the most, a chance to get to meet the real person she was, never fulfilled.
Most in the LGBTQIA community are battling in their own way for equality and just living daily life. While we consume our time with lgbt cruises, pride parades, hormone treatments, growing and reshaping our lives in this unequal society, in the so called ‘most free society’...America, a new era of information has shun the light on lgbt issues like never before. Sadly suicide from bullying has been a plaque in the community for decades. Now that we who have passed that hurdle of turning 18, leaving high school to be embraced and welcomed in communities around the country and became the chicken in the local bar. We can only look back thru the foggy memory of years at those tortured days we endured. We continue to fight for equality, living visibly, daring the world to tell us to go back and hide. All while other Trans and lgb youth following in our footsteps and with the light of attention that now shines greater than in 2000…nearly blinding than in 1990…nearly impossible to conceive in 1980 and unthinkable in 1970.
One study now finds that the average age that lgbt youth are coming out is between 8 and 9. Search YouTube and it’s not hard to find clips of people who came out at 9 or 10 years old. On network television a decade after Oprah’s ground breaking support of Trans-kids, now nearly every talk show and major news outlet has covered the topic. Shows like Glee, a comedy-drama-musical has gay and transgender high school characters. Skins in the UK is flooded with lgbt youth characters. This past January during the Presidential Inauguration, the first President in US history acknowledged gay and lesbians and mentioned the bloody 3 day riots of Stonewall in 1969, which was populated and largely ignited by transgender. Shortly after the inauguration 11 year old Sadie wrote a heartfelt letter to President Obama’s lack of acknowledging the Trans community. It received national praise and made Sadie somewhat of a hero in the transgender community.
Very few however lit up the faces of LGBT people everywhere than Jazz. Jazz first gained national attention at 7 years old in a YouTube vide titled thoughts on being a transgender child. Later she appeared on a Barbara Walters 20/20 interview titled ‘I’m a girl” Understanding Transgender Children. The show was so popular that Barbara Walters revisited Jazz five years later in 2012. By now Jazz had appeared on The Rosie Show and a documentary show on OWN “I am Jazz: A family in Transition. The 20/20 show became, along with Sadie’s letter to Obama, to be the most re-tweeted and mentions of Trans youth on social media to date. Jazz and all her family are outspoken supporters of transgender rights. They are also part of the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation. For now many kids like Sadie and Jazz are embraced by their families and the Media. Unfortunately many are not, as a letter titled I want to kill myself , from a nine year old child living as a girl born a boy, implies much more can be done. In each town and city around the world there are Trans and other lgb veterans (over 18) that can and should lend a voice to the helpless lgbt child on the playground being teased at this very moment?
In Chicago Ann & Robert H. Lurie are set to open a children’s hospital for Gender Identity and earlier this month Oregon Health Plan (Oregon’s Medicaid program) announced, that starting in Oct. 2014, they will cover the health care needs of transgender youth, including puberty-suppressing hormones and counseling services. Oregon is the first state to move in such a progressive and proactive way that counter acts bigotry and intolerance. If so many so called state leaders that claim to be for the people and want to end bullying would immolate Oregon, we would make progress. Nikki Haley, Gov. of South Carolina has talked a good game against bullying even a theatrical performance on how she was bullied but little if any help has come to the children here. I’m reminded of a young gay black teen in Hartsville, SC and despite a fairly large lgbt community for such a small town, this 16 year old boy had been bullied to the point that he went home after school, locked the doors and windows and lit the apartment and himself on fire. Leaving only a note saying goodbye to imply what had happened to him was not an accident. I often look back on this moment during a time when I was a trans-showgirl working my job and preparing for the next drag show, consumed with me…me and more me, why hadn’t I noticed this kids sorrow. I had met him and knew of him, why didn’t I know to give him words of encouragement then? It’s a question I’ll always ask…but never twice.
Even though many children are coming out younger they may not be stepping into a warm embrace of an understanding and supportive family. Many are still faced with the old stigmas and consequences of coming out early; hostile families, emotional abuse, and being kicked out of the house. A world still filled with ignorance and intolerance. Cult groups hide behind a belief that they are religious and provide non-understanding families conversion therapy on lgbt youth. Conversion therapy use is now said to be at an all time high, an irony to our enlighten generation. While some lgbt veterans celebrate the visibility of our community, the old dark ghost of bigotry and intolerance is killing lgbt youth in record numbers. It’s sadly becoming common to hear of yet another lgbt youth’s suicide. One more lgbt child’s death in our time, related to intolerance and bullying is one too many. As this new generation continues to emerge we as a Trans and lgbt community need more ways of addressing the best ways to meet the needs of lgbt kids. It is remarkable to be living in a time when a child, with support of family and community, at least now has the opportunity and chance to be whom in their heart and soul, God intended them to be...their true self. Let's make sure that happens.
Helpful links for help and discussion concerning Trans-youth