Scituate Owes Its Trans People Protection


Frankie Minich, Staff Writer

I’ll preface this by saying that I am lucky. I am so incredibly lucky that I was born and raised in this East Coast town in a state that always votes blue, where fears for my rights to exist as the truest form of myself don’t have to weigh heavy on my mind. I am unexplainably lucky to have the loving, accepting, and nurturing friends that I do. I am lucky that I found out early in my life that I didn’t have to spend the rest of it living as a person that I wasn’t, that I could change my own life and enjoy it. I have the luck that many other transgender people can only dream of, and yet it still isn’t enough to make me feel safe.

People have never been transphobic to my face. The bigotry of Scituate is exposed when the bigots think they’re safe, untouchable, and correct. Before I came out publicly as trans, there were times when people I would have called my friends pointed at a trans woman and said, “Look at how he’s dressed! Isn’t that gross?” I don’t remember what I said back.

The same cowardly bigotry was displayed at the Scituate School Committee meeting on December 14th and again on January 11th, when several Scituate residents were expressing their disdain for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee that was recently created by Scituate Public Schools. They claimed that no student at SPS should have to feel like they need a “safe space” while at the same time demonstrating exactly why safe spaces (a phrase which I think is widely misunderstood and gets a bad rap) are necessary.

In truth, it is hard to create a schoolwide “safe space” for marginalized students. The school can’t control every single action students take–teachers and administrators can only encourage them to do the right thing. When I spoke to two other trans students at SHS, they felt the same way; however, these students asked to remain anonymous.

When asked if he felt safe being trans in Scituate, one student said, “I feel safe physically because I feel as though I would stand up for myself before anything physically happened, but from name-calling or literally straight up bullying and transphobia, no [I don’t], because that still happens on a day to day basis.”

I join both the people I interviewed with the experience of being misgendered by students and teachers at school. I realize that sometimes these incidents are accidental, but I know they can be avoided regardless. My fellow trans students and I agree that LGBT education is vital in combatting transphobia in school. When asked about his thoughts on teaching LGBT topics in school, one of my interviewees said, “I know a lot of kids learn from their parents what their morals are, and if they think it’s okay to make fun of people, but then if you learn in school early on ‘Oh [being LGBT] is normal, so I’m not going to mention it.’”

The parents at the school committee meeting claimed that schools were teaching their children topics they didn’t approve of, topics that weren’t appropriate. We as a community need to stop deeming people’s existence as “inappropriate.” LGBT people exist even in a town as closed off and homogeneous as Scituate, and kids deserve to be taught about them. Raising your kids with beliefs that people just trying to live their lives are taboo and shouldn’t be talked about is extremely harmful.

One man at the school committee meeting said that middle schoolers shouldn’t be learning about trans people because “you’re taking children when they’re at the most confused they will ever be in their lives when their brains are still developing and telling them they can be a boy, a girl, or anything on the nonbinary spectrum.” And honestly, he’s right. There is no time more confusing than being in middle school. So, can you imagine being in middle school while also slowly realizing that you’re not the gender you’ve thought you were for your whole life? And having virtually no resources given to you to help you figure out what was happening? Because I don’t have to! But if I had learned about being LGBT in school, about gender dysphoria, about how there are millions of other people who have felt the way I did, I wouldn’t have felt so confused. Comprehensive and competent LGBT education is absolutely necessary to protect and nurture LGBT kids.

When I first started talking about what happened at those school committee meetings, I kept using the phrase “ignorance and bigotry.” But I’ve come to realize that those two words have different meanings. They were both present at the meetings but shouldn’t be lumped into the same category of “bad things people said.” Google’s definition of bigotry is “obstinate or unreasonable attachment to a belief, opinion, or faction; in particular, prejudice against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.” Google’s definition of ignorance is simply “lack of knowledge or information.” There was definitely bigotry displayed when people expressed their beliefs that their children shouldn’t learn about trans people in school–implying they think we’re unnatural and even a threat to their kids. But there was also ignorance. These people don’t understand what it’s like to be trans, especially to be a trans kid. Putting themselves in a trans person’s shoes has probably never crossed their minds.

When I interviewed Emily Mathews (President of the Scituate Education Foundation, member of Scituate Pride, supportive ally, and wonderful person), she helped me realize the difference between ignorance and bigotry: “I think the word ignorance gets a bad rap. Calling someone ignorant is an insult, right? But really it just means you lack information! I see being ignorant as a chance to learn something new!”

If we want to make Scituate a safer place for LGBT people–and any marginalized groups–we can’t just be angry at ignorant people. And believe me, I get angry. We have to let our anger fuel efforts for change. These people will keep spreading their harmful beliefs unless the community intervenes and educates them. For the sake of more kids like me, I hope this town feels obligated to take up that task.