By Liz Duah-Mensah
We’ve come a long way with LGBT acceptance. Just a few decades ago, relations with the same gender was a criminal offense. You could be fired, refused a living space, a hotel room, or even a meal due to who you loved. Today, in many places like Britain, Canada, and Spain, there are laws protecting the rights of LGBT people, including same-sex marriage, discrimination and the right to change legal gender. These countries are bursting with culture, tons of pride events throughout the sweltering month of June, and even have a plethora of LGBT friendly churches and mosques. With all of this, you’d think we’ve come quite a long way with LGBT rights. To that . . .I’d say you’re half-right. There’s still a long way to go when it comes to the acceptance of LGBT. On all corners of the globe, people continue to act hateful towards LGBT people—kicking them out, refusing them service, and even killing them. Anti-LGBT violence and homicides have increased since 2016, and by 2017, the rate of hate crimes rose by 86 percent. Since the start of Trump’s Administration, Trump has reversed many LGBT protection laws such as it being illegal to deny service on the basis of sexual orientation, the infamous trans military ban, and more. Even here in North Carolina, there’s not much of a difference for many members of the LGBT. Perhaps Rebecca Buckwalter explains the variance in LGBT acceptance best in her article “Has LGBT Acceptance Come As Far As We Claim” when writing about her queer friend in North Carolina, “A close, queer friend of mine in North Carolina has to guard her social media, processing every aesthetic change through the lens of extreme vulnerability. She works as a teacher, and there are parents who’d pull their kids; colleagues who’d stop talking to her; and administrators who’d fire her if she were to be half as “out” as I am in Washington, D.C.” And there’s no saying which is easier or harder to come out as—-coming out as anything is beyond difficult.
However, a lot of the violence and abuse those in the LGBT community face are in the Trans Community. 17% of all reported hate crimes were against trans people, and 50% of those crimes resulted in death. Many more forms of abuse have made themselves known to trans people, and a lot of this violence and abuse is, disappointingly enough, directed towards minors and youth.
Take Alex, (a teenage FTM), who is known online for his cosplay and anime enjoyment. Some of his cosplays include Todoroki of My Hero Academia, along with many other animes and video games. He posted these on his TikTok and Instagram. Many trans people decide to change their names to better reflect their new identity, and that is very liberating for most. It can be challenging to see your deadname (a trans person’s previous name) on legal records, school emails, and even be called your deadname by people oblivious to your identity, or those who simply don’t care. This was the case for Alex. In mid August, Alex’s mother, Tasha, hijacked his TikTok and Instagram, repeatedly deadnaming and misgendering Alex, visibly to Alex’s dismay.
This lack of acceptance went viral with the LGBTQ community and it’s allys. Many TikTokers and Twitter users are rallying together to support Alex through videos, artwork, and updates on his well being–even a GoFundMe has been set up to support Alex.
This situation is an example of the challenges of being a gender nonconforming or trans youth, as many parents are still not accepting of LGBT people. There have been countless cases of child abuse and abuse in various ways of those in the LGBT community. Like Leelah Alcorn, an LGBT youth who committed suicide. 41% of trans and gender nonconforming youths have attempted suicide, and many trans people who become homeless due to abuse towards their gender identity attempt suicide–69% of them to be specific. And while researchers and mental health professionals are trying to help mental health disparities, housing instabilities, discrimination, conversion therapy and more, finding ways for it to reach LGBT kids is difficult.
As of right now, the media is still gathering together to find Alex’s whereabouts and ensure his safety, as his significant other and his friends remain unaware, and as of late his means of communication have been cut off or deleted. A lot of his supporters are calling the fire department or the sheriffs office as the police weren’t helpful before. His mother has since been fired from Hungry Bear Cheese, which many are arguing wasn’t the result they were hoping for. With online school, Alex is now with his mother 24/7, and that might have been his family’s only source of income. Some are even opposing sharing the video as seeing and hearing your deadname being used all over the internet can be very damaging.
All in all, this is a very disheartening situation and it shows how much progress we still have to make with LGBT acceptance, and keeping LGBT kids and teens safe. And yes, we’ve made some progress, but more needs to be made, and that will come from our generation and Generation Y taking a stand against hateful rhetoric while continuing to educate others. And it may never be perfect, but we have to start somewhere. Some of it will be calling on lawmakers, some of it will be educating our communities, but whatever the case, any progress is good progress. Talk to your family about LGBT rights, support your LGBT friends, and if you’re having trouble with your sexuality, talk to a school counselor or therapist, because you’ve got this, and you deserve to be happy, safe, and live your truth.
If you have a sibling or family member who is LGBT and you or your family are struggling to accept that or if you have have questions, visit https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/orientation.pdf Safe communities, and helping families support their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children. If you’re in an emotionally abusive situation at home, having mental health issues, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm urges, call or text the Trevor Project (+1-866-488-7386) (678-678), the Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line (741-741) If it’s an emergency situation at home, or you have suicidal or homicidal intent (ie. a plan, the means, everything in order, etc.) call 911. You deserve to be safe.