Trigger warning: this article contains mentions of suicide
"Gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught,” a sign reads, written in capitals on a painted blue, pink, and white flag (Crandall, 2021). Protesters gathered in Montgomery, Alabama, thrashing signs, fighting for a right to their young identities. Their right to transition is being classified as a felony in the most recent passage of American gender-regulatory legislation.
What would constitute an assisted transition in other states could subject individuals to either a $15,000 fine or 10 years behind bars in the state of Alabama. As of March 2021, the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act," as passed in the United States Senate, makes its way to the House of Representatives for review. It prohibits trans youth from seeking medical procedures-- such as hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery-- but it also sets standards for schools to notify parents if they believe the student’s perception of gender is inconsistent with their sex.
What does this mean for the student? That trans youth will be “outed” to their parents if they assume an inconsistent gender/sex identity at school. This could be a premature revelation to families that do not accept the child, and to children who aren’t ready to express their identity at home. For a plethora of reasons, it poses a risk to the mental wellbeing of the child.
The act of “outing," or revealing that one is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, is consistently dangerous, and occasionally lethal. The life of businesswoman Essay Vanderbilt, notorious for the innovation of a particularly revolutionary golf club, provides one instance of just how dangerous outing can be. When she was researched and interviewed for an article on her work, she grew nervous as reporter Caleb Hannan began to delve into details of her personal life, stating he needed to ensure her credentials were “legitimate." He then found a relic of her past identity-- she was born as Stephen Krol in 1953.
When Hannan’s work was complete, he revealed the details he found of Vanderbilt’s past identity to the main investor in Vanderbilt’s company. It changed her. Recognizant that she’d exhibited suicidal tendencies in the past, she was undoubtedly pushed to her limit by what she warned Hannan would be a “hate crime," stating that “my [Vanderbilt] anonymity is my security, as well as my livelihood” (Schwartz, 2014). Soon after her identity was revealed, her ex-partner found her dead in their home, lying lifelessly with a bag taped around her head.
A considerate extrapolation can be made to the young students who may now be forced out of hiding, as Vanderbilt was. As they are soon to be denied medical and emotional resources, unable to reach out to counselors or consult doctors, they’ll be forced into a deeper closet--without a clear or consistent way to express themselves. As lawmakers in 20 states introduce and move to introduce further legislation against trans youth, we must remember the risks it poses to young lives (FFAA, 2021). We must nationally do better in securing a comfortable future for them.
Crandall, J. (2021, March 2). Protesters in support of transgender rights march around the Alabama
State House in Montgomery, Ala [Photograph]. Montgomery Advertiser.