Drew New York

Every student deserves to feel safe

We need to assure that every student, no matter gender, sex, orientation, race, religion, or other, is safe and accepted.

Dear Madam/Mr. President,

Everyday I get up for school and I get on my bus, I talk with my friends at the breakfast table, and we make each other laugh and smile. I go to my first class and do my work, I go to homeroom, and eventually I get to the worst and best part of my day. Lunch. I’ll walk into the cafeteria, and I have to run to get to my table. Why? I hear you asking, because everytime I get near a certain table, the “dead-naming” starts, if you don’t know what “dead-naming” is, it’s when other people use the birth name of a transgender or non-binary person, intentionally, for the purposes of harassment.

If you don’t know already, I’m transgender, My name is Andrew, but I prefer Drew. I didn’t always used to be called that, and that other name, my “dead-name” brings back painful memories, of depression, anxiety, and my biggest burden, my own body. I, like most other trans* people, suffer from dysphoria, dysphoria is when someone feels distress or discomfort because their physical sex does not align with their actual gender. So, back to the “dead-naming”.

Every day when I go to school, a place of learning, growing, and what’s supposed to be safety, I am verbally harassed, I try to ignore the infantile actions of these obtuse teens, it’s hard not to flinch when that name is mentioned. Now, let me get one thing straight, “dead-naming” is not the same as forgetting my name, or using the wrong name by accident, dead-naming is done intentionally with the purpose of ostracism. Every day at breakfast I ask a friend to walk up with me to get food, why? Because I’m scared, I’m afraid that one day, they’ll get tired of just dead-naming me, I’m afraid that one day, I’ll have to defend myself.

I know how to defend myself, thanks to about two years of karate, so don’t confuse my fear with helplessness, or weakness. However, while I’m in school, a place where my safety is supposed to be guaranteed, I should not have to worry about having to use the orange belt I was so proud of earning. And the worst part is, I’m more scared for my friends than I am scared for myself. I shouldn’t have to be afraid of having to protect my friends, and my friends, no, my family, shouldn’t have to be afraid of having to protect me.

But, it doesn’t stop at students treating me differently, it’s bus drivers too. Last year, in eighth grade, I was on the after school bus, Mr. Oats, our normal bus driver wasn’t there that day, he has this rule, “Two in a seat, no skipping seats, boys on one side, girls on the other!”. The substitute bus driver, liked to follow that rule, until it came to me of course. I got on the bus like normal, handed him my pass, and sat down. No problem, right? I was behaving, right? Well, the bus driver didn’t think so, let’s call him Mr. Opaque. Mr. Opaque took a look at me and repeated the rule, “Girls on one side, boys on the other.” While pointedly looking at me, I didn’t think much about it, until he walked over to my seat. Mr. Opaque said it again, “Girls on one side, boys on the other.” I raised an eyebrow at him, “Is there a problem?” I had asked. He told me I had to sit on the “girl’s side” I, very annoyed, told him no, and that, since I am indeed a male, I was going to sit on the “boy’s side”. He again tried to tell me that I wasn’t a boy, because no one of “Authority” had told him so. I, being my stubborn and somewhat self righteous self, refused to sit on the “girl’s side” and rightfully so. I guess he realized that I wasn’t going to sit somewhere else just to please someone else, because Mr. Opaque decided that I could sit on the “boy’s side” but I wasn’t allowed to sit with another guy, I had to sit an entire other seat behind everyone else. “Fine by me.” I thought at the time, I never really liked sitting next to people I don’t know, so I moved back. It wasn’t until later that I learned that what Mr. Opaque did was blatant discrimination against me.

Another time a bus driver, we’ll call her Miss Inane, downright refused to call me by the correct name. My little brother and I had got into a little fight, nothing serious, just two brothers annoying each other. The bus driver came to my stop and decided that she had the authority to not only decide that the entire thing was my fault, but that she also knew my gender better than I did, and I told her repeatedly that she was using the wrong name, but she told me that until some other adult told her different, that my name wasn’t Drew. So, I refused to to talk to her until she used the right name, knowing that I deserved to be respected just like any other student. When we got to the school, she called the principal down, the very kind guidance counselor, came down instead. While I was in her office, I expected to be blamed, like usual. Instead, she told me that she thought Miss Inane was being unfair, and she apologized to me, she said that Miss Inane was being talked to and that she completely understood the sibling fight. Thankfully I ride a different bus now.

What I’m proposing to solve this problem, is that instead of them being told to knock it off, we treat it as we would any other form of discrimination. I believe that we should educate people properly on LGBTQ+ issues, that the staff should be properly trained to handle situations like mine. To solve this problem, we all need to work together. Many LGBTQ+ youth feel rejected, so we need to communicate and assure them that they are supported by their family, friends, and peers. We need a safer environment, making sure that gender neutral bathrooms are available for those who don’t feel comfortable in gendered bathrooms, assuring students that they may use the bathroom that correlates with their gender identity. And respect the privacy of LGBTQ+ students.

We need to assure that every student, no matter gender, sex, orientation, race, religion, or other, is safe and accepted. Because it’s stories like mine that lead to tragedy, and honestly, haven’t we had enough of that?