For years, I had to answer to a name that wasn’t my own. I avoided raising my hand in class for fear of being deadnamed or misgendered. I changed for gym class in the nurse’s supply closet, just to avoid a gendered space. At home, there was no escape.
I was 11 years old when I realized I was queer and 12 when I realized I was transgender.
I couldn’t live as my true self until I was 19.
My only saving grace? My teachers.
I found solace in the classrooms of my high school English teacher, Andrea Rozansky, and my orchestra instructor, Regina Schueler. When I wasn’t welcome in my own house, I found home in the office of my school’s social worker, Nicole McAuliffe.
In these spaces, if only for a moment, I could exhale the breath I had been forced to hold in my entire life. Here, in the confidence of school faculty, I could finally be referred to by my own name. I could share what was going on in my life and ask for resources without fearing that these conversations would be shared with my family.
If it wasn’t for these teachers, I’m not sure I would’ve made it to 19.
But now, in a war waged against queer and transgender people, conservative politicians across the country are working to undermine desperately needed support for LGBTQ+ students like me.
At least 12 states have passed bills that restrict or ban gender-affirming care for those under 18, according to ABC, and similar bills have been introduced in at least 19 other states. Some state legislatures have even moved to restrict adults’ access to this healthcare.
Nine states have moved to ban trans students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, according to NPR. Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee have successfully passed such legislation.
Republican governor of Florida and potential presidential candidate Ron Desantis, on a quest to win the hearts and votes of evangelical voters, introduced a proposal last month that would expand the “Don’t Say Gay” law to apply to all grade levels. As it currently stands, the law forbids classroom instruction and discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.
These are just a few examples of legislation that targets trans youth.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently tracking 435 anti-LGBTQ bills circulating in the U.S. in 2023. This onslaught of legislative violence against LGBTQ people has reached a record high at the state level, with 150 bills specifically targeting transgender people.
While not all of these bills will pass, this surge in hateful legislation promotes the anti-trans sentiments cultivated by Republican politicians to propel their own campaigns.
In the name of “parental rights” and “protecting children,” Republican lawmakers want to marginalize LGBTQ+ youth and, for some, strip them of their only safe haven. Legislation like Desantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill sends the message to students that they aren’t welcome in society. That their existence is inherently political and a topic for debate.
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill threatens to eliminate a support system for LGBTQ+ students that saved my life.
With all this hateful legislation circulating, trans people need real support. Support beyond the cyclic, surface-level social media reposting after a hate crime occurs. Support beyond the university’s performative pride events amidst continual on-campus speaker events that promote transphobia and put trans students at risk.
So what can you do on an individual level?
Educate yourself and others. Instead of blindly hitting repost, read about the issues and legislation facing trans people and share it with those around you.
Respect trans people. If you hear someone use the wrong pronouns for somebody, correct them. When you don’t know how someone identifies, refer to them using gender neutral pronouns and inclusive language.
Stand up for trans rights. Show up to the polls. Contact lawmakers.
Let them know that we won’t leave the trans community behind.
The opinion desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org