polo black boots How it feels to be a transgender student in Battle Creek
Fifteen year old Elijah Cross knows how it feels to be denied the right to be yourself.
Cross is transgenderand has known for years thatdeep down, even though he was born with female body parts, he was not going to be a girl. He says he never felt right in his own shoes as a girl, but it was only recently that he learned the words to describe that inner turmoil. He now identifies as a male.
But last year, as a high school freshman, Cross’personal journey to self discovery became a public battleground for those around him. At Harper Creek High School, his teachers voiced their disapproval of the concept of being transgender, while students gave him funny looks and pointed and stared at him.
Most painfully, many denied who he was, Cross said. They continued to call him by his female birth name, and students referred to him as”she” and even said he needed a penis to qualify as a man.
Thecommentsbruised the 15 year old, leaving him with depression and no motivation to go to school.
“Harper Creek doesn’t really have a large, diverse school,” Cross said. And that was part of my depression and why I wanted to move to Lakeview,because I was told it was a lot better there.”
Cross did transfer to Lakeview, where, although his path had some bumps, he says he found much more support at school.
Studies have made it clear that many students identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender face emotional and sometimes physical abuse in schools. It’s these everyday instances of verbal and emotional abuse that don’t make it to television screens, newspaper headlines or even presidential candidatedebates.
For many schools, determining ways to better support their LGBT students is uncharted territory. In Michigan, thestate’s board of education andDepartment of Education are in the process of creating a set of proposed optional guidelines for schools to better support LGBTQ identifying students like Cross. Officials say that work started because local school districts around the stateasked for help on how to deal with these issues.
But juggling support for LGBT students and trying to avoid community backlash can be a balancing act for schools, especially in Michigan’sschools of choice world, where families can choose to uproot their kids and find another district if a policy or practicegoes against their beliefs. It’s rare to find a sex education curriculum locally that explicitly discusses LGBT issues.
But the consequences of schools not being proactive about supporting LGBT students can bedire.
Elijah Cross, 15, talks about his experiences as a transgender teenager. After facing prejudice at Harper Creek High School, he transferred to Lakeview High School, where he says he found more support.
For transgender students such as Cross, whose identity can sometimes be more visible, the consequences of being themselves is equally unsettling.
In a 2006 07GLSEN survey of 295 transgender students, one third heard staff members make homophobic remarks. About 90 percent of transgender students had been verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation or gender expressionthat past year. More thanhalf of all transgender students had been physically harassed.
But while LGBT students struggle with barriers including staff and student intolerance, the one question that has occupied headlines for months wasn’t about bullying, staff professional development on LGBT issues or curriculum. It was about bathrooms.
This year, the question of whether transgender people should be allowed to use public facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity has become a national debate that’s taken center stage in public schools.
But State Board of Education President John Austin says kids like Cross aren’t monsters.
“Transgender children aren’t the predators,” Austin said. “They’re the targets of abuse and ostracization.”
Cross is all too familiar with that reality.
Coming outCross holds onto memories that no15 year old should have to remember.
Although coming out during his freshman year at Harper Creek High School was a relief, lifting a weight off his shoulders, Cross said it was not an easy journey from that point forward.
Even after he told some teachers about his new identity, or left hints by writing his preferred name on school work, Cross said many teachers continued to refer to him by the female name assigned to him when he was born. Some voiced their disapproval of his identity altogether.
“They would kind of say stuff like ‘Well, I go to church, and at church we don’t really practice these things and we don’treally accept these things, but it’s not my problem to tell you what is right or wrong,'” Cross said.