Protect every kid means protecting trans & nonbinary students

This is an excerpt of a piece written by Kelly M., parent to a transgender student in Hanover.

I didn’t realize how outnumbered I was as a supporter of trans kids until after I spoke in support of trans-inclusive policies at a Hanover school board meeting in October and the room erupted in jeers. Before that, I assumed that maybe a quarter of the room were supporters and even wondered if the “Protect Every Kid” signs were for trans kids.  

But then one of the opposers tapped me with her sign, shooting me an ugly face and comment to ensure that I knew that her sign wasn’t for my kid. A man from the back yelled an insult. These events unwound almost in slow motion as I sat down and started to piece things together. I looked around the room and counted only eight allies in that room of 110. I suddenly felt unsafe, despite having felt perfectly safe sitting in that exact seat just moments earlier. I felt their jeers under my skin and in my bones.  

That same feeling stayed in my body for a few days, not quite a week. I had a sudden realization that this is what my kid goes through every day at school – this is what he has been describing to me. He told me about the whispering, jokes, looks, and the specific song students sing in gym class when he walks by. In my head, I would say, “that doesn’t sound that bad.” Aloud, I might even say, “maybe it’s not about you.” I will never say that to him ever again.   

I decided that I would work hard to create as safe a space as I could for others to speak, and as the week leading up to the November 4th meeting went on, volunteer to speak they did. Supporters donated hot pink t-shirts, suggested a slogan, made a logo, donated signs and buttons, offered funding, and led protests. Atlee High School students rallied then came out to the school board meeting that night. 

As I waited for the meeting to start, I could feel my thoughts race and my body tense. Once there, I feared passing around my signs, shirts, stickers, and buttons but supporters came to get them from me. The sea of pink spread out and looked amazing on TV and via Zoom. Students sat together, meeting and chatting. This was the environment that I’d hoped for. 

Others felt safe in that room, but I was having a different experience. I kept trembling, as if I were cold, but I wasn’t cold. The room was safe, we outnumbered them in the seats, and I was not slated to speak. 

The next day, I told a friend of my trembling body and hands, of my racing mind. Of me coming down from some sort of energy, but it wasn’t a “high.” I found it difficult to describe.  

“You are having a trauma response.”  

“Really? But nothing happened last night.”  

“Yeah, but you returned to the scene of what happened last month and your body remembered.” 

That sounded about right.   

My son lives like this every day. Even when he has a good day, there’s the reminder that most days are not. His body remembers even when he tries to redirect his mind. His trauma never gets a break. It’s renewed every day whether “something happens” or not. And Hanover doesn’t mind being “late” to figuring out how to address this. They don’t mind flirting openly with the idea of doing nothing at all. And it affects my son’s life, mine, and our whole family. I’m sure we are not alone in this.   

Allies who don’t have a trans/non-binary kid at home, I want you to know this: Having a safe home is only part of suicide prevention, but having safe schools is most definitely the other critical part of the equation. And we simply do not have that in Hanover.  

This is why I contribute to the leadership on this cause. And you have your reason, too. We care for all kids, even the trans, non-binary, and gender-fluid ones.  

I am so thankful for this opportunity to share leadership with folks in our Hanover community.