As local and national journalists practice their agenda-setting function, more and more news programs discuss the increasing prevalence of transgender individuals, gender dysphoria and how those conditions affect Americans. Gender dysphoria is when someone’s body does not correlate with their gender identity.
Transgender student’s everyday lives resemble those seen on the news. Counselor Tara Lebar works to increase acceptance.
“I look in the mirror at myself and I see somebody that’s not me and it hurts,” senior Michael Casey said. “It hurts physically. I feel like I want to cry at times because I’m like, this isn’t me. I’m looking at somebody who’s a complete stranger to me. I look at myself in the mirror and I’m like, ‘who am I?’”
Being transgender a century ago presented different challenges than it does today. Back then, it was considered a psychopathological condition. Now, being transgender is something that society is starting to hear about more often and accept.
“Sometimes when you are struggling with something that society deems outside of normal, it can cause a lot of internal conflict and struggle. What we’re learning now, is different ways to try to change that,” Lebar said.
The term, transgender, and the meaning itself was considered taboo for a long period of time. However, some still attempt at normalizing the concept of being transgender. In the 1800s, a man who fought with the Union during the Civil War was born a female. In 1953, there was a film called “Glen or Glenda” that wrote the main character as a cross-dresser.
Although there are still barriers to acceptance, today being transgender is more widely accepted. There are transgender advocates and allies. This includes doctors who provide hormones, therapy and reassignment surgery. Yet, the transgender community still faces backlash.
In 2017, President Trump proposed a bill that prevents transgender people from entering the U.S. military. Transgender junior Andy Ruebelmann planned on joining the military, these restrictions prevent him from fulfilling his goal.
“You have to have no more than 36 months of therapy on your gender, which I’ve already surpassed, and your surgery recovery can only last a maximum of two months,” Reubelmann said. “You have to have all of that done before you can come into the military.” The U.S. Government does not pay for gender therapy or reassignment surgery for people serving in the military. The Supreme Court voted to enact the military ban. In addition, there are other restrictions against transgender citizens. Society is becoming more accepting of the transgender community, but it still follows cisgender norms.
“We have a very cisgender society,” Lebar said. “Meaning that as long as you are a girl and identify as a girl or are a boy and identify as a boy, and you like members of the opposite sex, society deems [you] normal.”
The reason the norm exists is because of the lack of information and misinformation that is being given and received.
“If I dress differently, they’re going to shame me for it,” Casey said “If I dress like the gender I want to be, they’re going to shame me for it and you have to keep that mindset of I’m a boy but I have to think like a girl.”
There continues to be a lack of representation of the transgender community in schools and across society as a whole. It isn’t talked about and it makes students who are in the transgender community feel that they aren’t part of the BV West family and that they’re on the outside of society.
“The BV West LGBTQ+ community should be better represented and recognized because I still hear gay jokes all the time,” Casey said. “It makes me fear coming out. I don’t want anybody to feel like they shouldn’t come out.”
Several years ago, the Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA) was a safe place for LGBTQ+ students but the club disbanned for lack of a sponsor. If BV West had more LGBTQ+ groups and clubs, then people who identify as transgender would feel more a part of the school.
“There should be more things to highlight the LGBTQ+ group because it’s hard to feel a part of the family at BV West if no one ever talks about [us],” Casey said. “I feel like an outcast because of that.”
People should be able to express themselves without the fear of being made fun of by students. Students shouldn’t have to push away their identity at school out of fear of bullying or shunning. Most transgender students must do that at home already. It is imperative that school is a safe space for all people, no matter their gender identity.
“Students should know that it’s okay to be different. You don’t have to conform,” Casey said. “You don’t have to be what other people want you to be.”
Students and teachers should attempt to create and promote clubs and activities that advocate for people in the transgender community. With transgender representation like-minded students would be able, to feel more welcome and part of the celebrated #BVWestfamily.
It is nearly 2020 and people still face discrimination because of their sexual identity. With the beginning of a new decade, it is crucial to respect others for who they are.