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Advocacy & Allyship: Supporting Transgender Youth

The Clark-Fox Policy Institute, in cooperation with the Brown School’s Open Classroom, celebrated and recognized Transgender Day of Visibility with Advocacy & Allyship: Supporting Transgender Youth, a webinar conference attended by more than 300 online participants. Tonya Edmond, interim co-dean at the Brown School, opened the session with remarks of gratitude and acknowledged all transgender panelist and audience members with a simple yet impactful statement, “We see you.”

Kelly Storck, Brown School alum, moderated the panel and started with three important statements to set the stage:

  1. Seeing, believing, affirming, and loving people for who they are is central to their health and well-being;
  2. Systemic efforts are underway to undermine transgender youth and their families; and
  3. The risk of danger and marginalization is sobering for transgender people of color. Despite a coordinated and strategic effort to secure transgender people of color and indigenous people for the panel, the effort was unsuccessful and their perspective is missing from the discussion.  

With the ever-present attacks on the LGBTQIA community, the panelists shared their personal experiences, information, and ideas to take steps toward creating a more caring and inclusive society. Lisa Brennan, Co-Leader of TransParent St. Louis and the author of The Auditorium in My Mind: Treasuring My Transgender Child, shared her story of how she supported her daughter. Brennan wants everyone to know, especially parents, that small acts, such as making your pronouns visible, can go a long way in showing your allyship to trans youth.

Miles, a youth self-advocate shared thoughts on how to create a safe environment for LGBTQIA youth. Miles stated, “Parents are making a big difference in schools when they advocate on behalf of their child.” Miles also noted that school bathrooms are a prominent issue for LGBTQIA identifying students. He urged allies to support LGBTQIA students to ensure a safe and inclusive environment.

Jess Jones of Jess Jones Education & Consulting pressed the need for schools to develop policies that center the needs of the students.  She noted that adults often diminish the voice of trans students when they should listen and provide them with a sense of agency to build inclusive policies. When asked how St. Louis schools were fairing, in relation to trans-affirming policies and practices, Jones says, “a lack of any policy is a warning sign.” However, she added that there is some movement in the right direction.

Many states have passed or are in the process of passing legislation restricting a parent’s access to medical transition care for their kids. Dr. Christopher Lewis, co-director of Pediatric Transgender Health and director of Differences of Sex Development Clinic at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, advocates for the rights of his patients on a regular basis. He emphasized that when trans youth and their families are not included in the law-making process, it results in great harm.

Sayer Johnson, executive director of Metro Trans Umbrella Group, touched on the importance of organizing and remaining visible. “If people know our stories and see us, it makes it harder for them to hate us.”  

The marginalization of people who identify as LGBTQIA is consistent and pervasive. It is important that the voices of transgender people are heard and amplified. The webinar concluded with a “love fest” where panelists shared why they love advocating for the humanity and rights of transgender people.

Catch the full replay here!