I met my first transgender person 50 years ago. (He/him: his preferred pronouns, although at the time we didn’t know you could do that.) As I grew up, I learned he was one of the first people to have gender-affirming surgery through Johns Hopkins University; it was literally uncharted territory at the time. After making the decision and starting hormone replacement therapy, he decided to move across the country and start a completely new life. His decision remained a secret to the world at large and he lived in fear of being outed up to the day he died. He also was one of the kindest people I have ever met.
Fast forward 40 years to my daughter’s Indianapolis-based Catholic school that denied a request by a student transitioning to use their preferred name and pronouns. As word spread, students started coming to school wearing name tags, “Hello, My Name Is ________,” with their preferred name. Although the school didn’t change its policy, my daughter was overjoyed that the students were able to shower their classmate with the acceptance and love the administration and church could not. He was able to be his true self with those who mattered most.
We’ve come so far. Or have we?
In 2022, dozens of states have or will consider legislation with the singular purpose of limiting the rights of transgender people; at least 15 acts have been introduced or enacted to “protect women’s sports” alone—including one here in Indiana that the ACLU of Indiana is taking action against.
Missouri legislators introduced an act with the incendiary name, “Missouri Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act,” seeking to limit gender affirming care, including hormone therapy, for people under 18. The bill is currently being reviewed in committee.
While it died in committee, the legislative bodies in Kansas introduced a bill making it a crime for a physician “to perform gender reassignment surgery or hormone replacement therapy” for those under 18.
These bills, and the attitudes behind them, are a horrifying step back in time and are dangerous to people’s health. A Trevor Project study found “85% of transgender and nonbinary youth…say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.”
The kids have it right.
A 2021 Pew Research Center study found that 42% of Americans know someone who is transgender. In another study, nearly four in 10 U.S. adults said acceptance of transgender people is good for our society. Social acceptance of transgenders is even higher (54%) for those aged 18 to 29.
I suspect there are even more young people who embrace all genders and gender nonconforming. Case in point: In one of our weekly calls, my 20-year-old daughter casually updated me on a friend who is transitioning and has decided to also transition pronouns from they/them to he/him. He has informed his family, friends, and school, all of whom are accommodating his needs.
This month especially, I’d like to encourage us to think more like our kids and practice unconditional acceptance. Hatred driven by fear of those who are different takes so much energy and is unhealthy. Kindness is truly a much easier path.
Let’s continue to create safe spaces for everyone. At Well Done Marketing, we strive to create an inclusive environment. We celebrate the LGBTQ+ community this month—and continue our support every day of the year.
There are many resources out there to learn more about the history of gender transition and the transgender experience. You can start by visiting GenderNexus.org. I also, personally, and without endorsement, recommend “How to They/Them: A Visual Guide to Nonbinary Pronouns and the World of Gender Fluidity.”