I spoke at this evening's school board meeting in favor of the proposed policy to support trans students.
I am sort of painfully aware that trans folks' voices should be the decisive ones here, not voices of the medical establishment. But since you can't yield your time to other people and I can only speak as myself, I decided this was worth saying.
I'm speaking in support of the proposed policy on transgender students. I'm speaking today as someone trained as a clinical social worker who spent a year as a therapist in the LGBT community, but first and foremost as the mother of a Colfax student who told me out of the blue at age four that she's a "girlboy" and whose gender identity is still up in the air today.
I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that the rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidality among our LGBT youth, particularly transgender youth, are abysmal, with gay and lesbian youth 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers,1
and trans youth more than 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than their cis peers.
Surveys suggest that 45% of transgender Americans age 18-24 have attempted suicide.2
There is nothing inevitable about this statistic. Clinicians did
once wonder whether being transgender actually causes depression -- you could imagine
that some degree of self-hatred could be an intrinsic characteristic of gender dysphoria -- but we know now that it is not. Depression isn't caused by being transgender, but by the discrimination, stigmatization and rejection that many trans individuals experience on a daily basis, from their families, from society, and yes, from our schools. A landmark study published in Pediatrics
earlier this year3
found that transgender children whose parents accepted them and who were allowed to transition socially had no increase in depression
compared to their cisgender peers.
What that means is that eliminating that 45% suicide attempt rate is in our power, as teachers and educators. All trans children need from us is to support a social transition: to respect their new name and pronouns, to let them choose the clothes that they prefer, to let them use the bathroom they feel comfortable and safe using. It's such a small thing they need from us. And it will absolutely, without question, save lives.
I recognize that the idea of a trans person in a public restroom is alarming to a lot of people who haven't thought about it much before, and who are unaware that we have all been sharing public restrooms with trans people our whole lives. But those fears are simply not grounded in reality: trans folks are infinitely more likely to be the victims of sexual violence in restrooms than the perpetrators. They do not pose a risk to their cisgender peers. But our failure to accept them is
absolutely a risk to their health and to their lives.
The draft policy on transgender students is an enormous step for our district in treating our trans students with the respect and decency they deserve and creating an atmosphere where they can thrive. Thank you for supporting them.1
Kaan, Olsen et al. (2011). “Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9—12.” CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6007a1.htm
Haas, Rodgers & Herman (2014). “Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults: Findings of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.” http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/AFSP-Williams-Suicide-Report-Final.pdf3
Olson, Durwood, DeMeules & McLaughlin (2016). “Mental Health of Transgender Children Who Are Supported in Their Identities,” http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/02/24/peds.2015-3223