As I think about all the civil rights movements in the United States over the course of its history, they all have one simple common denominator: ignorance. Misinformation or no information at all leads to all sorts of misconceptions that can end in violent or tragic circumstances, whether it be a hate crime or self inflicted harm. The transgender community is blazing trails daily in its struggle for equality but I can’t help but think that if there was more information available how much smoother the road would be. One of the best ways to spread information properly is to start at ground zero in our school systems. That is why I strongly support gender and sexuality education for grades 9-12.
Teenagers come into high school from ages 12-14, which for most is during the beginning stages of puberty. Many of their households don’t partake in a traditional conversation about sex and the details of it, never mind Homosexuality and Transgenderism. We don’t have any gender sex education regulated and approved by the unified school system so kids lack vital information and resources regarding gender identity and sexuality. Hormones, confusion, and a lack of guidance, whether at home or school, allows many adolescents to fall through the cracks into depression and despair. The facts are glaring and they speak for themselves.
- More than one in every 10 high school students reports having attempted suicide. Nearly 1 in 6 students between the ages of 12-17 have seriously considered it.
- More than 30% of LGBTQ youth report at least one suicide attempt within the last year.
- More than 50% of Transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.
From my personal experience, I can say that I easily could have been one of these statistics. I too was lost and confused not knowing where I fit in in this society on top of the many general life questions that filled my mind. I had a traditional Chinese upbringing, so there was no sex talk and no deviation from conforming to the gender binary. I only discovered transgenderism at age 18 and wish I had understood the concept sooner. Fortunately, I overcame my obstacles with the resources that were available in San Francisco at the time, albeit limited.
This is not solely a GLBT issue. Sexual issues affect everyone across the board, regardless of preference. What we should be asking ourselves is are we going to be proactive at this point in history or stare blindly at the tsunami of adolescent sexual issues that leaves a wake of bodies in its path? When will gender education be executed in our school systems? How much more will we tolerate? And if we do finally take action, how can we provide transgender youth a better future that is not only limited to objectification in order to work and survive? I’m open to suggestions. Let’s start the dialogue.
*statistics courtesy of yspp.org