A couple of weeks ago, news trickled out of a small town in Oklahoma about parents threatening and dehumanising a 12-year-old girl for being transgender.
It started in a Facebook group for public school parents in Achille, Oklahoma, according to The Oklahoman.
“Heads up parents of 5th thru 7th grade girls,” a parent at the school posted. “The transgender is already using the girls bathroom.”
In the ensuing comment thread, grown adults called the child a “thing” and a “half baked maggot.” The insults quickly devolved into threats.
“Just tell the kids to kick ass in the bathroom and it won’t come back!!” someone chimed in.
A man holding an infant in his profile picture suggested castrating the student, writing, “A good sharp knife will do the job really quick.”
Much has been made of students bullying one another, but in this case it was parents of the student’s classmates, adults in the community and a few from outside the community who jumped onto the dog pile.
It got so bad, the school had to shut down for two days. The child’s parents plan to move to another state.
Steps To Stop Bullies In Their Tracks
We looked at the steps we can take as parents to keep from raising bullies. This time, its about confronting our fellow adults when they are the ones doing harm.
We sought advice from Melissa Moore, executive director of We Are Family, an organisation that has been working to support LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex) youth in the Charleston area since 1994. They have seen kids endure everything the student from Oklahoma endured — and worse — at the hands of adults, parents and church leaders. In fact, a major part of their outreach is to homeless teenagers whose parents kicked them out of the house.
The very first thing to do is to speak up.
“Call it out. Never just be a bystander, and don’t let things slide when they are problematic and they are wrong. People need to learn, and they’ll never learn if you just keep letting things go. … So stand up for those kids when you see something wrong.”
Words have consequences, particularly when children are listening. Your kid might not care one way or the other about transgender people until you speak up, whether in support of their basic humanity or, as we saw in Oklahoma, in support of violence.
Living The Nightmare
“Most transgender women of colour … they don’t normally live past the age of 35, and the reason they don’t live past the age of 35 is because people kill them. Way too often, they are murdered, and it is that kind of rhetoric that those parents were expressing on that social media feed that causes the deaths of these people.”
Sadly, it’s not hard to imagine the Oklahoma student’s nightmare playing out here in South Carolina, where anti-transgender “bathroom bills” are a cause celebre. And powerful institutions, including the church, regularly inveigh against folks who are gender-nonconforming, gay or transgender.
When an LGBT kid does need help, it can be hard to come by. Organisations like We Are Family are rare and often overloaded with casework.
Nijeeah Richardson, director of support programs for We Are Family, said that even well-meaning parents sometimes have a hard time supporting or connecting with their LGBT children.
“My parents, who are black, can talk to me about blackness. But if straight, they can’t necessarily talk to me about what it means to be queer or trans.”