I am a transgender therapist working with transgender and gender variant children living in Virginia and I OPPOSE Governor Youngkin’s “guidance”.
Governor Youngkin ran on a transphobic platform, promising his constituents that he would strip away the hard-won protections for transgender and gender variant children that were secured in 2020’s General Assembly through the passage of House Bill 145/Senate Bill 161 and, unfortunately, he was as good as his word. That legislation was the culmination of more than a decade of work behind the scenes by trans advocates such as Equality Virginia to finally put into place a model designed by the Virginia Department of Education meant to act as a blueprint for individual school districts. The model was informed by solid evidence-based research and compliant with guidance provided by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) regarding ethical and affirming best practices to be implemented when working with transgender and gender-variant children and adolescents.
As a transgender man who lived through decades of gatekeeping by mental health professionals under the guise of an antiquated model in which my identity was pathologized, word of Youngkin’s “guidance” was crushing.
As a father of a gender variant child and the uncle of three transgender and gender variant nephews, the news was infuriating.
As a clinical social worker who has devoted himself to making the lives of my young transgender and gender variant clients affected by this “guidance” better than my own was at their age, the news is a call to action.
I can say unequivocally that Youngkin’s misguided and uneducated “guidance” will cost lives. It will cost the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of an already marginalized population. In pandering to his constituents’ transphobic fears, Youngkin is ignoring the fact that children have rights independent of the wants and desires of their parents. Everyone has the right to a free public education in a setting where they are safe, supported, and given every opportunity to succeed. Transgender children and gender variant children have the same right to those opportunities as their cisgender counterparts.
Youngkin’s “guidance” encouraging school staff to out transgender and gender variant children to their parents is the most problematic aspect of this for me. In a perfect world every parent would be loving, compassionate, open-minded, and selflessly devoted to their children. There would be no neglect or abuse in this world, no children coming to my office every week suffering from the visible and invisible scars of complex trauma inflicted upon them by the very people who are supposed to be there to protect and nurture them. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of the world in which we live and I have no shortage of clients.
This naïve belief that all parents are to be trusted with children who may not live up to their expectations in any number of ways including gender variance is dangerous. If a child is closeted with their family at home and out at school, it is likely because they have legitimate fears for their safety. There are many ways transphobic unaccepting parents can harm their children, from cruel and damaging words to threats of homelessness to physical violence. The presence of an accepting adult in a transgender child’s life, even if that adult is not their parent, correlates with a 50% reduction in the likelihood that that child will die by suicide. A favorite supportive teacher may be the lifeline that keeps a child alive. It is unethical to force anyone to out a child to their parents if by so doing they may be placing that child’s life in danger.
I have struggled with what to say in this statement and have ultimately decided that children deserve to have a say in what happens to them. Like members of all marginalized populations, children are all too often talked about rather than being able to speak for themselves. The following are three statements by gender variant children living in the state of Virginia who are endangered by Youngkin’s harmful and misguided “guidance”. I have removed all identification to both protect their privacy and to ensure their safety.
The bill is deeply dangerous. My friend has severely transphobic parents. Telling them could cause them to be abused, sent to conversion therapy, or even lead to suicide. Now, let’s be honest, according to statistics 53% of transgender children have seriously considered suicide. Who’s to say that approving of the bill won’t push them over the edge?
I know that I have had my fair share of suicidal thoughts. My family told me it (being transgender) was probably a phase and that it was too much change for them. It wasn’t for my friends who supported me and used my pronouns. (Without their support) I would have tried to commit (suicide). Imagine if my family didn’t come around. If I had to deal with that stress on top of grades, family, friends . . . (I) would crumble.
I, like many other kids, grew up in a strict, unwelcoming and bigoted household. Even saying the words “gay” or “transgender” would get me a lecture or punishment. It was made clear to me being LGBTQ is disgusting and any child of my father’s (children) who was part of (that) community was no longer a child of his. If he had ever found out about a thing so simple as my identity, he would have tried to kill me.
This policy isn’t just bigoted and ignorant, it’s murderous. It IS going to cause the death of children, from kids from households like mine to kids who lack support, to kids who are already struggling.
This guidance is self-serving and hateful. If you actually cared for today’s youth, you would do actual research. You would see people like my friend who got beat because he was outed.
I OPPOSE the guidance. This topic matters to me because it affects everything around me. It affects me, my friends, my classmates, my teachers, everyone.
If my school did not have protections in place it would be detrimental to the safety and well-being of every child in Virginia. LGBTQ or not, it will bring disruption and harm to everyone.
I am an assigned female at birth transmasculine person. I am lucky to have a loving and accepting household, but not everyone else does. I OPPOSE this bill as it is rooted in transphobic misinformation, creates unsafe household dynamics, erases trans and nonbinary people in the classroom, allows discrimination in the household, and would most likely increase the suicide rate of LGBT+ youth . . .
Many of the people supporting the law (Youngkin’s guidance) are claiming that young trans students are “confused” and “don’t suffer permanent gender dysphoria.” These claims are ignorant and I can say from experience that my gender dysphoria is permanent. Why would I want to fake crying before going to a friend’s pool party (because of the dysphoria created by wearing a swimsuit)? I assure you I wouldn’t. Studies show that most trans kids by around 11-12 know that they are trans and report identifying as trans later in life.
This also creates unsafe home dynamics as it forces schools to out students to their parents, who may be unaccepting. This can create many situations where a child may be unsafe. School staff being forced to break confidentiality could result in abuse.
This additionally erases trans and nonbinary voices from the classroom which can limit the ability to have multiple perspectives in class discussions, something which is encouraged in most AP and college classes. To remove and silence voices is to remove yet another voice from history. Which voices are going to be removed next, until there is nothing left but voices of white, cisgender, straight men?
This bill encourages discrimination in the classroom as it allows teachers to disrespect student’s gender-affirming names and pronouns without parental permission to use them in class.
These issues would likely cause great increases in the suicide rates in LGBT+ teens. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45 % of LGBT youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year and nearly 1 in 5 attempted suicide. However, those who are socially accepted and gender affirmed at school reported lower rates of suicide attempts. If you consider yourself “pro-life,” think about protecting the lives of trans kids first.