Dear Trans Kid: I Don't Know You But I Want To Protect You

I want you to just keep going.

Dear Trans Kid,

We’re all really worried about you. If you’re plugged in to the same parts of social media as me (are you?), we have a lot to say to you and about you. We love you. We want to protect you. Call this hotline if you need help: (877) 565-8860. But the truth is, I don’t know you at all. I don’t know anything about you. I have stats to give me an idea of what it’s like for you: about 150,000 youth ages 13-17 identify as transgender, 77 percent of trans folks who were out at school experienced mistreatment, and that at least 40 percent of trans adults have reported a suicide attempt, 95 percent of which were before they were 25. 

But for the most part, I have to just sort of project what it was like for me and my friends when we were young and queer, some of us out and some of us not. I can’t help but feel like that’s not enough, because for one thing I’m not trans and I’m not really a youth anymore. For another thing, the kids in the South grew up different from the kids in the suburban Southwest, and the kids at the rich neighborhood schools are different from the kids at the poor neighborhood schools, and so on. And across these differences, I still see glimpses of your life here and there that tell me a lot of you are already more woke than I ever was, and you’re definitely more stylish than I ever was.

But I have some questions.

Do you read the same news that I do? Do you pay attention to it? Do you get what’s happening? You might know better than I do, but I’ll summarize for context. On a legal level, the Trump administration revoked a “guidance” on how federally-funded schools should enforce Title IX, which was distributed in May 2016 by the Obama administration. Title IX and your protection through it are still technically in tact. If the 2016 move helped you use the right bathroom or locker room before, you should still be able to use the right bathroom or locker room now with the protection of the law. On a symbolic level, the Trump administration is trying to bully you, trying to disempower you, and trying to confuse school administrators. Is it working? Or are you more resilient than we’ve given you credit for? Did the 2016 guidance make a difference for you? Do you understand that in spite of this, there are a lot of us on your side?

How do you cope? Do you have more or less queer friends than I did? Do you have long-distance Internet friends like I did? The more I talk to people, the more it seems like that’s a queer thing, so don’t feel bad about having friends you’ve never met in person. What shows do you watch? And do they have queer people on them? Does that help? What do you listen to when you’re angry or sad? Do you like Lady Gaga, or is she over? Have you listened to Hole’s Live Through This or Missy Elliott’s old albums? Have you heard Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill or Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange? You might like those, or you might already have a better playlist.

Have you read Kate Bornstein? Have you seen The Matrix, and realized it’s about being trans? What is your digital life like? I feel like you’re not on Facebook, at least not in the same way I am. But you’re on Instagram, aren’t you? Or Snapchat? Do you blog? Are you on Tumblr? Does Tumblr help? You might be somebody completely different on the Internet. Or is that harder to get away with than it used to be? Perhaps you’re more like yourself in digital spaces, and perhaps you have more of a voice there. Do you feel sexy in these digital spaces, and on your own terms?

Are you thinking vaguely about death and dying? Are you thinking about killing yourself? I want to be able to look you in the face and beg you not to kill yourself. I want you to at least put it off, and I want you to get through this day, and then this week, and then this month, and then this year. I want you to just keep going, and I want you to thank yourself for going long enough to read this. I want you to drink some water, because that’s a way to keep going. I want you to know a lot of us are working hard to make life better for you, and we’re going to work even harder. We’re trying to make life feel more worth living to you, and we need you here to tell us how. We need you here to tell them to go fuck themselves.

I’m sorry I know so little about you, that I’m barely older than you and already so out of touch. But when I say I want to protect you, even though we might not even like each other if we met, this is what I mean: We belong to similar communities, with much of the same history, and on that basis alone, I have to have your back. I believe you have a ton of agency and ability, and at the same time, I believe that you’re innocent, that you don’t deserve this. Depending on where you are and what you’re up against, there are more or less things you can do. Above all, please keep going, keep being yourself.

And give ‘em hell.

In Solidarity, Doug

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