While it would have been unheard of a handful of years ago, social acceptance of transgender individuals – at least, at the high school level – is apparently becoming more the norm. There are increasing efforts nationwide to help schools see transgender students fit in to what is already a stressful time in any student’s life. Ask any teenager about how life is, and it is likely said teen will tell the asker how very stressful it is. Now, the transgender rights movement is picking up momentum as American high schools are seeking tools that will allow these students to find a greater degree of comfort in their classrooms.
Isaac Barnett and his friend Jasen were recently featured as a part of a presentation at their local high school as part of a way to get the group to talk more about what they were going through as transgender students. The pair noted that their friends began calling them by their male names immediately and they came out about their transgender status with their school administrator’s blessing. The coming out was about as drama free as any event in high school gets, and it appears to be gaining further steam as several states work towards hammering out anti-discrimination policies and laws for their schools.
Transgender children are coming out about their rejection of their birth gender at earlier ages, and school districts across the nation are working on helping these students fit into their schools without any concerns. California, in fact, is the first state that very clearly spells out that transgender students will be allowed to participate on the sports teams that match their chosen gender and that they will be allowed to use the washrooms that match their chosen gender as well. While another 13 states are working on solid anti-discrimination policies that will serve to support initiatives like these, California appears to be setting the standard for transgender students.
This comes as a huge relief to those who have been looking at suicide rates for transgender individuals. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Study, over 40 percent of those who identify as transgender attempt suicide and a stunning 78 percent of transgender individuals experience domestic violence. Over 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals participated in the study, which occurred in 2011, and the results made it clear that transgender discrimination continues to occur in stunning rates.
While the media is an incredibly useful tool when it comes to printing news about valid and interesting topics, at times, the media also screws up in incredible proportions. The website Grantland, for instance, wrote a piece on “Dr. V’s Magical Putter” – a new putter that the inventor, Essay Anne Vanderbilt, claimed to be a revolutionary new tool on the golf course. However, author Caleb Hannan went too far; he disclosed, for whatever reason, that Dr. Vanderbilt was a transgendered woman, and now, Vanderbilt is dead by her own hand. Dr. Vanderbilt’s status as a transgender woman had nothing to do with the story, but Hannan chose to disclose that information when it wasn’t his to disclose, and Vanderbilt had, for reasons of her own, chosen not to reveal that fact. Hannan also revealed her transgender status to one of Vanderbilt’s investors in a rather careless move, and none of that was relevant to the initial story of the putter.
Vanderbilt, like other transgender Americans, was living closeted, and while many in North American society today claim that ours is a society that is far more enlightened than it used to be, the truth is, it is not. Vanderbilt was living closeted for a reason; there are so many thousands of transgender Americans – transgender citizens of the global society – that are regularly harassed and assaulted by bigots and those who are simply living scared of what they do not and could not possibly understand. These are members of a society where the Affordable Care Act’s benefits may not cover their very specific and very unique needs; these are members of 21st century, global society who, while many may not understand their deep seated rejection of their birth gender, should be accorded the exact same sorts of rights that many in today’s society take for granted today.
School districts that are taking on anti-discrimination policies for transgender students should be applauded for working to encourage acceptance across all levels of high school life. It is at the early formative years, when students’ understanding of the world around them continues to grow and be nurtured by those teachers, parents, relatives and other significant figures working to help them become outstanding citizens, that these policies should be in place and be supported by those involved in education. That’s where the transgender rights movement should be gaining steam, and hopefully, that will result in more positive stories like those lived by young Isaac Barnett and his friend Jasen.
by Christina St-Jean
Injustice at Every Turn