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We’ve Got Your Back

LGBTQ Advocacy Groups and Philadelphia City Officials Gather to Show Support and Educate About Services for Transgender Students

We've Got Your Back: Supporting Trans Students

Philadelphia Today, Equality Pennsylvania joined advocates and city officials to talk about what recent White House actions mean for transgender students, what students and parents can do, and what services and resources are available for students and parents.

Equality Pennsylvania Board member, Sharron Cooks, kicked off the event saying, “Last week the Trump administration sent a message to transgender kids that the President of the United States doesn’t have their backs. We are gathering here today to tell trans kids that we do have their backs because every student, including trans kids, should be treated fairly and equally under the law, have the same opportunity as their classmates to fully participate in school.”

Ms Cooks is also the Owner & CEO of Making Our Lives Easier LLC, a community based organization that provides quality resources & information to transgender women of color through community organizing and advocacy.

Mayor Jim Kenney, keynoted the event and stated clearly, “The City of Philadelphia will continue to stand with transgender students even if the federal government refuses to. We are proud of the work that we have done in our schools here to make transgender students feel welcomed and included, and we will work to continue to make progress to support all kids—including transgender kids who deserve a bright future just as much as anyone.”

Rue Landau, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations continued, “Philadelphia passed the Fair Practices Ordinance in 2002 to ensure that all people would be protected from discrimination no matter who they are or who they love. This applies to students too. All students need to do simple things like use the restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity. This law has been in place in Philadelphia for more than 15 years without any increase in incidents and while protecting all students’ privacy. We know from experience that schools can protect trans kids from discrimination and keep our schools safe. In fact, protecting all kids from discrimination increases school safety for all.”

Dr. William Hite, Superintendant of the Philadelphia School District, also attended and spoke about the School District policies to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students from discrimination.

The following community leaders and advocates spoke out for transgender kids:

Heath Davis, member of the Mayor’s commission on LGBTQ Affairs:

“Having equal access to public bathrooms is a fundamental civil right that predicates every other civil right. Without access to bathrooms in the schools we attend, the places where we work, and the businesses we frequent, we literally cannot be in public. A lot of people fail to understand the gravity of the issue. It’s also true that a much larger group of people suffer from gender identity discrimination than the relatively small number of people who self-identify as transgender. The real issue is gender policing, and that impacts more than just transgender children and adults. Gender policing in bathroom harms people whose appearances are “gender variant,” be they masculine-appearing girls or women, feminine-appearing boys or men, or androgynous people.”

Marla McCulloch, Former Board Member Philadelphia Family Pride, parent of a transgender child:

“Standing by and doing nothing is not a neutral position. Telling kids to wait to be who they are is not a neutral position – they may not make it that far. We know that lack of family and community support raises the risk of death by suicide to 57% for transkids. But, standing by those kids, communicating that: “I’ve got your back” erases that increased risk. I need my community to help. I am trying to keep my kid alive and happy and healthy – just like every parent out there.”

Deja Lynn Alvarez, member of the Mayor’s commission on LGBTQ Affairs

“Transgender people are not a danger. We are in danger. Due to the fear-mongering and hateful propaganda perpetuated by those who choose to stay in a place of ignorance instead of tolerance and understanding.”

Nayimah Sanchez, ACLU Transgender Advocacy Coordinator:

“Protection for transgender students is critical to assisting with the success of a population that has had so many stereotypes attached to them. When there are challenges and barriers to proper/safe and affirming education environments, it can lead to difficulties accessing employment because of lack of education, difficulties accessing housing because of lack of financial resources, and barriers to healthcare. When one is discriminated against based on gender identity and when schools have non-inclusive policies, we loose faith in the system that should be here to help us succeed, and then may fall back to what historically have been our survival tactics to make ends meet, which could be survival sex work and/or any other survival method just to be able to live. We must know where it starts so that we can reduce these challenges so that we as transgender and non-binary identified people can achieve the American dream. It’s important for transgender youth to know that the law is on their side and we have their back. Revoking the guidance from the Department of Education may send trans students a terrible message, but it does not change the law. They are still protected by Title IX and schools have an obligation to make sure they enforce the law.”

 

Advocates gathered together to show support for transgender youth because it is needed. There are myriad challenges facing transgender youth all across the country.

According to GLSEN’s 2013 National School Climate Survey:

  • More than 75 percent of transgender students report feeling unsafe in school.
  • Nearly 60 percent of transgender students have been forced to use a bathroom or locker room inconsistent with their gender identity.
  • More than 63 percent of transgender students avoid using public restrooms because of fears of harassment or assault.
  • Every student should have a fair chance to succeed in school.But when anti-trans policies single out transgender youth for isolation and harm, there are consequences that extend into their academic careers as well. According to the National School Climate Survey, the hostile atmosphere in schools can damage a student’s self-esteem, hurt their GPA and ultimately make these students less likely to plan for college.

It’s unsurprising, then, that transgender youth face greater mental health challenges because of the hostile environments in which they often find themselves. According to a January 2015 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health:

  • Transgender youth are significantly more likely than non-transgender youth to face depression – 50.6 percent to 20.6 percent.
  • Transgender youth experience significantly higher levels of anxiety than their cisgender peers, 27.6 percent to 10 percent.
  • Transgender youth are more than three times as likely to contemplate suicide – 31.1 percent to 11.1 percent.
  • Restricting or outright denying transgender students access to restroom facilities can cause serious problems for someone’s physical health. Some transgender students will avoid eating or drinking, dehydrating themselves to prevent themselves from using an unsafe restroom. This can cause long-term health problems like urinary tract infections.

These statistics offer just some insight into the urgency behind protecting transgender students in schools.

 

 

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With 60,000 members across the commonwealth, Equality Pennsylvania is the leading organization advancing equality and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Pennsylvanians.

 

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