Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
TUSnaps is infamous for its harsh discourse, often at the expense of marginalized individuals. About two weeks ago, a discussion about transgender people and their mere existence elicited a wave of transphobic comments.
Someone expressed that being transgender is not normal and that we shouldn’t educate children — those under 16 years old who apparently cannot make decisions on their own — on the issues of the queer community so as to avoid influencing or, rather, corrupting their minds with harmful ideologies. However, fortunately, they maintain that they have no issues with trangender folks or other members of the queer community and promise to still be civil no matter how someone identifies.
Another common sentiment is that boys aren’t girls and girls aren’t boys simply based on capricious feelings that indicate a mental illness. Or that the word “phobia” does not accurately describe transphobic people because they aren’t scared of trans folk who identify with a gender that they (the transphobe) don’t agree with. And finally, one user expressed that one who identifies as transgender is simply depressed and that cutting off certain genetalia won’t help the trans individual’s mental illness and that they should seek professional help.
What are some things that come to mind when you read these excerpts? For me they represent heinous ignorance; the kind that implicitly informs actions and votes that hold real life consequences for gender and sexual minorities. This kind of ignorance is hard to confront because it’s entirely ingrained in the person’s thought process, and ever present in society’s daily discourse. Fortunately, there is a way to fight it: education.
If we employed LGBTQIA+ education from elementary to post-secondary levels, this kind of inclusive education, in theory, could eradicate the vast majority of hateful thoughts like the ones mentioned above. Queer education programs are so vitally important because they allow a closeted queer student in middle school — who is in the midst of a deep identity search as is typical of young adolescence — to see that their feelings and potential identities are loved and accepted. And studies have shown that kids can handle these topics seeing that global organizations like UNAIDS, UNESCO and WHO have teamed up to put out curriculum on gender and sexuality education for students ages five through 18 as recently as 2018. Children are much better at processing information than we give them credit for. They are empathetic individuals at a stage in life where they are absorbing all the information they can to understand this world. Kids can handle this kind of education so long as it is presented in a manner that is appropriate for their level of cognitive function.
As someone aspiring to be an educator on LGBTQIA+ topics, I feel the urgency of this issue because kids — both queer and straight — desperately need this education. LGBTQIA+ education can literally save lives by preventing suicide of queer individuals who feel that their communities can’t accept who they are. This information won’t make students want to be gay, trans or whatever one thinks it’ll make them. It will only build their empathy and compassion for others and allow them to better accept themselves should they actually come out as queer. For instance, I watched movies my entire life with straight people in them, yet I still came out gay. In fact, watching those movies and other forms of media only made me think that my sexuality was wrong. Without a doubt, I am certain that if my schools had education programs for LGBTQIA+ students, then I surely would have understood my identity better and most likely would have saved myself a lot of internal torment by coming out sooner. So I will say it again: educating students does not make them want to “be gay” or change their genders because “they feel like it;” it will only serve to make this society a better place to live in without so much hate.