Trump, Transgender, and Courage in Kansas

Being transgender during the Trump era (along with being a woman, a member of any minority, a student, a person with a disability, or anyone who is poor) has become a daily encounter with hate, hopelessness, and human suffering.
    Daily exposure to trauma is creating enormous stress for countless Americans for whom safety is less present than it was only a year ago. Yet, in Kansas, the lives and challenges of transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people have never been more present.
    When I started doing transgender education, activism, and advocacy in Kansas, nearly 10 years ago, there were very few openly-trans people in the state. When Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project (KSTEP) formed in 2010, there were only a few similar organizations in all of America.
    This movement, today, has support groups and TGNC education happening in all four corners of Kansas and throughout the state.
    The thing that has changed so much, is the out, vocal presence of youth. This is, in my opinion, the thing that guarantees the day will come when discrimination against LGBTQ+ citizens of Kansas will no longer be legal.
    When Derby High School put Obama era guidance into place regarding dignity for TGNC youth in schools, it brought about a great deal of resistance. With support from GLSEN Greater Wichita, youth and parents in Derby stood up in the face of discrimination. When Trump rescinded Obama guidance in 2017, and the Derby School Board reversed their position, these young people continued to stand up.
    Faced with discrimination from other students, Lawrence TGNC youth held a sit-in and demanded for their voices to be heard. In an Olathe NW homecoming parade, the GSA was attacked and marginalized by other students. About 150 people attended at related protest. I do want to mention that KSTEP and others will be providing educational presentations related to both recent events.
    Trump trauma for TGNC Americans has become so common that it would be understandable if people struggled to find their courage. Transgender troops, changes with the Department of Justice, Jeff Sessions’ constant refusal to uphold the Constitution, Betsy DeVos’ attacks on students - It is most definitely courageous for so many people to stand up more loudly, and it is equally important that we continue to do so.
    From time to time, someone will tell me they think the things I do are courageous. I don’t know. Maybe a little. But do you know what is truly courageous?
    Putting one foot in front of the other, day after day after year after year, trying to be who we are. Waking up in the morning and deciding to breathe again, just for one more day. This is courage.  
    Standing up to the hate and monstrosity of the Trump administration, is extraordinary. Not to mention the fact that this is happening to the crumbling kingdom of Brownback.
    Let’s be very clear about what is happening. The actions of Trump, like the actions of Brownback, result in increased risk for attempted suicide, substance abuse, bullying, harassment, and violence for TGNC citizens. This is particularly true for our youth.
    Let’s also be very clear about what is happening in Kansas. People are standing their ground and lifting their voices. We are doing everything that can be done to withstand the onslaught against TGNC Kansans. We are not backing down.
    Finally, a message for Trump - if you want to see courage, you should take a look at the people throughout America, including all of us in Kansas, who are standing up against your heartless dismissal of our dignity.
    You will fail. You will fail because you have failed to see us as human beings. And you will fail because you have dismissed our resolve. This is Kansas. This is America. We will make it great. Not because of you. In spite of you. l

StephanieMott-7Stephanie Mott is a transgender woman from Topeka. She is the executive director of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, and a commissioner on the City of Topeka Human Relations Commission. Reach her at [email protected]

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