HERO and Southern LGBTQ Youth

I was born in Memphis, TN, the son of more than three generations of Memphians who were deeply entrenched in southern culture and society, despite their Jewish identity. As a transgender queer person, this southern attitude made it difficult for me to come out and to be proud of who I am. One week ago, Houston, TX another liberal southern city, failed to pass HERO, the anti-discrimination ordinance that would protect all citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The vote was largely fueled by transphobic attacks that stated the bill would cause men to attack women in the restroom.

Last Tuesday night, as the results started to pour in, my eyes began to fill with tears. I became very afraid. As a young person, I always imagined my coming out would be met with hostility by my southern family. My family who grew up before integration, before the liberation, and before the rise of the internet. When I go home I always have bathroom anxiety in public because I see the staring eyes of those around me and know that if they knew who I was they would spit and call me slurs. I began to think of all the young trans people in the south I know, from Georgia to North Carolina, From Tennessee to Texas, who everyday struggle to be themselves, just as I did, I cannot imagine that these people watching their TV that night, were not filled with fear and shame over who they were.

I quietly tried to remind myself that I am not a monster, that I do not deserve the hate spewed at me. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder. My aunt lives in Houston, and what if I wanted to visit her? What if I wanted to go to the bathroom in the Galleria mall? I wondered if Memphis, who has a anti-discrimination ordinance, would want to repeal theirs? How far would this reach?

Transgender youth deserve to feel safe wherever they are, in the south or the north. Trans youth deserve to know that they aren’t hated or thought to be monster. Trans youth are human, they have just as many rights. Trans youth have been told by Houston this week that they aren’t ok, and that they aren’t as important as cis people. We do not need more murdered, dead trans people. If Houston doesn’t want that, they should think twice about what they have done.

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