I personally identify as a straight cisgender female which I know in itself is a privilege in our society. I have two siblings who identify as non-binary and they do not get the same respect as I do. Both of my siblings use they/them pronouns and have another name they choose to go by. I love my siblings more than I can describe to you and seeing people disrespect them and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole just because they are expressing themselves for who they are breaks my heart.
Governor Glenn Youngkin has recently presented new regulations regarding the rights of transgender students in Virginia public schools. According to these new policies, transgender students would be required to use facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their sex on official school records. They would also only be allowed to participate in sex-specific athletic programs and other activities that correspond with their biological sex. These rules will also prevent students from going by a name other than their given name at birth or asking teachers to refer to them as the gender/pronouns they identify with unless their parents provide legal documents stating a change in name or in sex. There is a 30-day comment period on these new Model Policies that Opened on September 26th and will close on October 26th. The state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow, will need to review the comments made about these policies and approve the document in order for the policy to be put in place. Here is a link where you can learn more about these policies.
Think about all the students these policies could affect. From elementary school through high school, students are in critical and vulnerable stages of their personal development. No matter who they are or how they identify, all children should have the right to express themselves. When I was in school, they always taught us to “be ourselves” but what do they really mean? They want us to “be ourselves” but under their terms. Because if we’re anything other than what they want us to be it’s wrong or it’s restricted. All these students want to do is be able to be themselves and identify with what makes them comfortable. Is that so wrong? School is already an incredibly difficult environment for growing kids because honestly, kids are mean. It is already hard for children to express themselves due to the fear of being bullied or being “different”. By implementing these policies students will be stripped of their human rights that allow them to express themselves however they choose.
I don’t have personal experience with being discriminated against because of my sexual identity but it is still something that is extremely important to me. My sibling goes by a name that makes them feel more comfortable at school and they have to deal with ignorant people who refuse to call them by their name. From my experience in school, students have always had the freedom of going by another name or a nickname in class, if that is what they preferred, so why is it different now? Just because they are transgender they aren’t allowed to use another name? This just blatantly shows how transphobic these new policies are. Both of my siblings had difficulty coming out as non-binary because not only did they grow up in a household that had difficulties understanding the LGBTQ+ community, but there is also a general lack of understanding and knowledge when it comes to transgender and non-binary people. This lack of knowledge makes it more difficult for transgender and non-binary people to come out; So when they do have the courage to come out and policies like these are presented, it makes it that much more difficult for them to feel safe in a public place like school. School is supposed to be a safe place and a place where students can escape from that judgment and decide who they want to be. Not all parents and families are understanding and allow their children to express themselves so why should they be denied that freedom at school?
Both of my siblings have told me that they avoid going to the bathroom at school because of the uncomfortable environment it can be. There are people who do not accept them and going into spaces like these can be dangerous. Imagine not feeling comfortable using the bathroom at school because of how OTHER people might react? That is absolutely ridiculous and transgender students should not have to live with this fear just because other people cannot open their minds to something that goes against societal norms. Enforcing these policies will only make matters worse for transgender students. These restrictions are basically telling transgender students that they are wrong for being who they are and it allows other teachers and students to enforce transphobic ideas.
So instead of taking away the rights of transgender students why can’t schools implement equality and advocate for diversity? Why can’t schools create gender-neutral bathrooms for students who might not identify as either male or female? Why should students have to change who they are just to please those who cannot open their minds to anything other than heteronormative and cisnormative ideas? Just because someone is “different” or presents themselves in a way that you are not used to does not make it wrong. Have an open mind and do not be afraid to be who you are no matter how other people choose to react. Who you are is beautiful and no one can change that.
One thought on “It’s Always “Be Yourself” Until Who You Are Isn’t Someone They Agree With.”
Love this blog. I’m doing a post soon on the same topic, but I love the way you went about yours. As someone with a sibling who’s a part of the LGBTQ+ community I know how heartbreaking it is watching them not get the respect they deserve because of their gender or sexual orientation, but it’ll soon get better!