Many parents prefer their children to socialize freely and without restraints, perhaps implying a remembrance of their own childhood experiences; the freedom to choose what to play and, more importantly, who to play with.
In this same context, many parents with children who do not conform to common social norms, or who do not meet certain parental expectations, make the enforcement of behavioral traits like competence, discipline, and assertiveness the focal point of their child’s formation, while leaving out other important traits like openness, agreeableness, and self-preservation. These parents believe that ‘courage’ is the guaranteed result of this type of upbringing, supporting the ideas that harassment and bullying are the tests of strengths, and that surviving them ensures a ‘tough and strong’ personality, thus, providing the necessary coping tools and mechanisms to guarantee a successful adult life. Other parents, basing their best judgement on their own past experiences, believe parental protectiveness is a better answer to ensure a safe and successful upbringing.
As it stands, too many tragic stories around parental expectations exist; too many tragic endings because of the harassment and violence these 'different' children are subjected to, while parents remain unaware of the negative impact these stereotypes of ‘non-conformance to normalcy’, ‘submissiveness’ and ‘mental weakness’ bring to their children.
Children at risk
LGBTQ+ people are known targets of hate, harassment, and violence. Race, religious affiliation, and age only exacerbate the issue. Extremely sensitive to this situation are LGBTQ+ children, who, in most cases, are incapable of coping effectively with the hate and violence directed at them, most notoriously, when they experience this violence inside their safe spaces, their schools, and their own homes. For the majority, running away from home is the only viable solution.
All runaway children, whether LGBTQ+ or not, endure hunger, homelessness and addiction, infant pregnancy, disease. Most of them don’t have means of identification or access to healthcare or social services; the grand majority become victims of abuse, exploitation, societal abandonment, and ultimately, are put in a position where solace comes only after taking the only thing that's truly theirs; their own lives.
There are approximately 4.1 million self-identified transgenders 18 years or older in the US, or approximately, 1.5% of the entire US population. The statistics of the LGBTQ+ population under 18 years of age, whom I consider the most vulnerable group, are unbelievable: of the 74 million children in the US no one knows how many of them are homosexual, bisexual, or asexual, there is no information about their location, and most certainly, how many of them are transgender and/or transexual.
This reality is much larger and impactful than a pronoun or a second place in a sporting event.
Awareness, arguments, and opinions must go beyond the “access to sports” debates, the discussion around extended cultural definitions of the term “Woman”, or the lexical reductions of language including neologisms. And although relevant, these topics asphyxiate the actual debate and distract the attention from the harsh realities affecting most LGBTQ+ people, especially, transgender children.
Ours is a fight for dignity and respect
A fight for a dignity that guarantees equal treatment; equal to everyone else. With equal opportunities and access to education, healthcare, jobs, credit, housing, food, public infrastructure, and public services.
A fight for a respect that ensures treatment free of bigotry, pity, hatred, violence, or brutality.
A fight for a dignity and respect, with a special focus on LGBTQ+ children, to protect them from laws that seek to criminalize them while threatening to take away the few rights so hardly fought for; laws which ultimately pretend to erase and deny their existence.
Transgender people are human beings. Like the rest of humanity, they think, feel, experience emotions, and have a positive impact in life with the opportunities available. They have plenty to offer, not only by enhancing the human experience from multiple concurrent perspectives, but by providing solutions to similar issues affecting other groups of highly vulnerable people.
Allyship, advocacy and empathy towards LGBTQIA+ people, and specially children, ensure they can benefit from the opportunities safe spaces provide, leading them to live productive, joyful and wholesome lives. Activism is not only about marching, protesting, and voting. Volunteering is activism. Sharing ideas or listening to discussions and debates on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is activism. Educating ourselves is activism. Talking about the positive impact of the LGBTQ+ community is activism. Passing a ribbon, wearing a pin, they’re all forms of activism.
Ultimately, the desire of every person in the LGBTQIA+ community is to live in liberty and be able to experience the joys that freedom and happiness bring to everyone.
Let’s be active, let’s be present!
This blog post was submitted by Maura Ardden, a member of the Jacksonville chapter for the National Organization for Women.
Who is Maura?
Maura Ardden is systems analyst and human rights activist. She has five children, and lives in Florida. Maura's opinions and perspectives are based on her independent research of social systems and her own experiences as a daughter, sister, and parent.