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Fourteen years ago and now

Commentary: Trans Progressive

Ash Whitaker (right) and his mother, Melissa | PHOTO: TRANSGENDER LAW CENTER

I remember coming out in early 2003 as a transsexual – that’s what we called ourselves back then. When those of us who called ourselves transsexual also called ourselves transgender, it was actually kind of political – we were also identifying ourselves as falling under a transgender umbrella of gender nonconforming people.

Within the first couple of years of my coming out in San Diego, the youngest person I knew who came out as transsexual was in her late twenties. We’d heard of younger trans people, but these were rare beings. We were still a few years away from organizations focused on trans youth’s materiality, such as Trans Youth Family Allies and Gender Spectrum, even coming into existence.

Times change. Issues many of us couldn’t imagine being issues, such as which bathrooms transgender youth would use in schools, are now issues at the forefront.

During the late 2000s Trans Youth Family Allies and Gender Spectrum were speaking about something that many of us later transitioning folk had a hard time imagining: supportive parents. These organizations were formed in significant part because parents were listening to their children when they were saying that the gender they were assigned at birth didn’t align with the gender that they were.

Many of us older trans folk came from a time when the answer to expressing gender nonconforming behaviors, let alone expressing that our assigned genders didn’t align with the genders we were assigned at birth, was met almost exclusively by what we’d call conversion, also called reparative, therapy. That we live in a time when this kind of therapy is being banned in many states with regards to minors is remarkable.

So, 14 years since coming out, the world has truly changed. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a groundbreaking ruling in favor of Ash Whitaker (Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District) May 30, unanimously ruling that (in the words of the Transgender Law Center) “Ash, a senior at Tremper High School in the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to use the boys’ restrooms at school throughout his senior year without fear of discipline or invasive surveillance by school officials.”

The unanimous ruling, authored by Judge Ann Claire Williams, stated “The School District has failed to provide any evidence of how the preliminary injunction will harm it, or any of its students or parents …, whereas the harms to Ash are well-documented and supported by the record.”

“With this decision, the Seventh Circuit (which covers Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana) is the first federal appeals court to find conclusively that a transgender student has the right to be treated in accordance with the student’s gender identity at school under both Title IX and the Constitution,” noted the Transgender Law Center, which represented Ash. “Notably, it is also the first decision to reach that conclusion without reliance on the Obama administration’s guidance on schools’ Title IX obligations to transgender students, which the Trump administration rescinded in February.”

Fourteen years ago, I could barely imagine transgender youth having supportive parents. Now a transgender youth has won a ruling at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on which bathroom he’s legally allowed to use. We live in a whole different and rapidly changing world for transgender people.



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Posted by on Jun 8, 2017. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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