Advocacy Is About Standing Together In The Face Of Oppression

"LGBTQ teens are still facing intolerance at multiple levels."

The Trump administration recently reversed the official interpretation of ‘Title IX’, effectively removing protections for transgender youth in public schools. This action demonstrates President Trump’s utter disregard for the rights and freedoms of these young people and the LGBTQ community as a whole. A few weeks ago, the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student in Gloucester, Virginia, who is fighting his school board for the freedom to use the restroom fitting with his gender identity. I cannot stand by in silence as the federal government attacks my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We must all stand together, united in our diversity, to support, protect and empower one another.

We live in a society where LGBTQ individuals and transgender people especially are routinely harassed and bullied for being true to who they are. From national tragedies like the Orlando shooting to everyday bullying, discrimination and violence have become something that this community is forced to deal with on a regular basis. As a lesbian, I understand what it’s like to be targeted for being different and how challenging it can be to be yourself in a society that doesn’t always embrace diversity. It breaks my heart to imagine what this feels like for a transgender teen who is still trying to figure out who they are.

Being a teenager is tough for everyone ― you’re emotionally vulnerable, you’re under pressure to perform well in school and make friends, and you’re trying to make your way in the world. Now imagine being LGBTQ with the looming threat of harassment and discrimination for being different. Growing up as a lesbian in Missouri, I was called a “dyke” more times than I can count and on a high school trip to an amusement park, my girlfriend and I had garbage thrown at us by other kids just for holding hands in line. It’s so disheartening to know that over ten years later, LGBTQ teens are still facing intolerance at multiple levels.

Knowing my own experience, I can only imagine what it must be like as a transgender teenager today with this added threat of the federal government undermining their rights to feel safe and empowered in school.

While at times I faced blatant harassment, the government wasn’t able to diminish my existence by mandating where I am able to be myself. This administration’s agenda isn’t just about bathrooms ― it’s about marginalizing an already targeted community by taking away their basic freedom of expression and devaluing their experience.

Without the support of the government, LGBTQ people, transgender people and transgender youth especially, need the support of their peers. It’s devastating to see the rates of suicide among transgender teens (41%) compared to that of the overall population (4.6%). We as a community have to stand up for one another and we as a nation have to support everyone, especially those marginalized.

Advocacy is about standing together in the face of oppression. Regardless of personal experience, we have a responsibility to join as allies, friends and supporters with those bravely fighting for justice. Without the government’s backing, it’s up to each and every one of us to stand with Gavin, transgender people and all communities facing discrimination. We must raise our voices, advocate for our beliefs and demand better.