Often overlooked in our LGBTQ community is the Transgender community. In this administration where much of the legislation being changed, seems to have a direct correlations to Transgender rights, I feel it is important to be able to share some of their stories. It is time for us all to set our differences and beliefs aside. We must unite and fight this administration before it removes anymore from us and we lose all the progressions we have made. So join with me as I share their stories and lets celebrate their fight and stand with them.
When it comes to talking about civil rights, we seem to always focus on groups that are similar to our point of view. We all are guilty of it and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just normal. I do it when I write. I elected to talk and share stories of our Transgender Community, but I forgot that also includes adolescents and teenagers. What we forget are the struggles of those younger than us. We forget the LGBTQ teens and adolescence and the sad part is the statistics show this is where a large number of LGBTQ suicides come from. So we need to make sure we include those that are younger than us in our fights for rights.
July 13th of this year, BJ Colangelo did an article for Scene magazine about a Transgender teen who was denied the rights of a name change. For most adults it’s a fairly simple process, you go to court and petition for it to happen, they may require you to post to a newspaper of your name change, and then you show up for the actual date to make it happen. Stressful and scary, but easier that it was for an Ohio Transgender teen. And it isn’t just in Ohio.
15-year-old Elliot went with his parents to make his change, so that he would be ready for the simple things like a driver’s license and applying to colleges. He has already been to doctors and affirmed with his parents, who agreed with him, that this is what he truly wanted. They similarly thought this would just be a formality. What happened was far worse, Judge Kirby, who presides over Warren County, decided he knew better than Elliot, his parents and his doctors and that it was only a phase brought on by media and as such denied him his name change. At 15 the struggles of living as a teenager are hard enough. You have hormones, peer pressure, what will happen after graduation, finding and maintaining friendships, and just learning about whom you are physically and mentally. To come to a point where you have made a decision about who you are and have the support of those more important to you be ripped away from someone who thinks they know better can shatter your world.
I admit that in my earlier years after coming out I was guilty of the mindset that kids and teenagers couldn’t understand the world full enough to make decisions about being a homosexual or transgender. Still dealing with changes and not fully understanding their place in the world. After meeting many kids who knew themselves much better than I am, I came to realize that revelations like this do not have an age criteria like some amusement park ride. How could I stand and tell someone that I am who I am because I was born this way and not validate someone else for that statement simply because they were much younger than I am.
During the whole process, Judge Kirby continued to refer to Elliot as “she” and calling Elliot by his “dead name.” Even though he later mentioned that he understood that using improper pronouns can be offensive to the transgender community.
“Whether [the teen] is experiencing gender dysphoria or is just not comfortable with her body is something that only time will reveal,” Kirby wrote in his decision. “Is [the teen’s] distress brought about by confusion, peer pressure, or other non-transgender issues – or is it truly mismatch between her gender identity and her body.”
The journey that Elliot and his family went through to get to the point of wanting the name change was simply tossed aside by a judge who thought he knew better than Elliot, his parents, or his doctors. This is a reaction that is all too often the normal. Elliot and his parents are in the process of appealing this decision with help of LGBTQ attorney Josh Langdon.
“This appeal is a case of first impression in Ohio, and we will fight vigorously to ensure that Elliot and his family are treated with dignity and respect. We hope the 12th District Court of Appeals moves quickly to overturn Judge Kirby’s decision to put transgender children on trial.”
Judge Kirby told Elliot and his family to ask again “once you become an adult.” In his footnotes of the case he wrote “Age, Develop, Mature. The court was cited saying that they are not saying ‘no’ to the name change, ‘just not yet’. Elliot at least had the support of his parents.
In 2014 Leelah Alcorn of Warren County committed suicide and was reported she was being forced to go through conversion therapy. Leelah was 17 and left a note stating simply “I’ve had enough.” She had reached out to friends and transgender suicide hotline for help. At 14, she was already experiencing problems with her family accepting her for who she identified as, so she turned to friends for her support. She struggled with accepting who she felt she was and what her family wanted her to be. She wanted her struggles to be a catalyst for progression for Transgender rights.
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in a post on her Tumblr account.
She left a message to her parents stating “you can’t just control other people like that.” Even in death, her family refused to acknowledge her. There are no statistics on how transgender suicide, since it is not always known or accurately reported. However, in 2010 it was reported that 41% of 7000 transgender people had attempted suicide.
This, all too often, goes unnoticed by our community in Cleveland. We forget that many of the rights we have, here in our city, do not translate to our municipalities in Ohio. And these incidents are far too common throughout our great nation. This is why we need to #uniteandfight, stand together with our community to ensure that all civil rights are ours. And that no one should have to suffer these kinds of indignities.
We have to realize that we are the stewards for the future LGBTQ people. We need to lay the appropriate groundwork to give them a better place than what we are leaving. We have to ask ourselves if our mindset is holding back progress and if so how can we change it. You don’t have to agree with everyone, you just have to realize that his or her lives aren’t your journey. Advocacy is about realizing the cause or person is the right thing to fight for, not necessarily being the person who needs the cause. Are you being the best possible steward for the future?