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Transparency: As Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 approaches, CHS student shares his insight about the environment for transgender students at Carmel

March 23, 2018

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Senior Eli Lucas stands in front of a colorful angel wing mural in the freshman center. He said being accepted as transgender was very uplifting. A YouTuber himself, Lucas said watching other transgender YouTubers gives him an “If he can do it, so can I” attitude.

Senior Eli Lucas stands in front of a colorful angel wing mural in the freshman center. He said being accepted as transgender was very uplifting. A YouTuber himself, Lucas said watching other transgender YouTubers gives him an “If he can do it, so can I” attitude.

Marissa Ryan

Marissa Ryan

Senior Eli Lucas stands in front of a colorful angel wing mural in the freshman center. He said being accepted as transgender was very uplifting. A YouTuber himself, Lucas said watching other transgender YouTubers gives him an “If he can do it, so can I” attitude.

March 31 marks international transgender Day of Visibility— a day established in 2009 as a way to celebrate transgender people and to raise awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide.

According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), transgender youth across the nation face a myriad of struggles on a day-to-day basis, most of which involve the harsh nature of their surrounding environment, but transgender senior Eli Lucas said CHS has a generally positive and understanding environment in terms of overall acceptance.

“I think that Carmel is just a very accepting community because we have so many kids. I feel like there’s everybody from a different walk of life (here),” Lucas said.

Jeremy Horner, Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) sponsor and chemistry teacher, said while the environment of this school is mostly accepting, he said this is not true for all circumstances. Horner said the social climate depends on which student someone talks to.

National statistics, however, paint a different picture. According to a 2011 study conducted by the National Center of Transgender Equality,  82 percent of transgender youth reported having felt unsafe at school at some point. While Lucas said he has never felt unsafe or threatened at school, he said he has other transgender friends here who can attest to the statistic. He said he thinks the it is reflective of realities of some social climates for transgender students, even at Carmel.

Lucas said, “Other people wouldn’t probably agree with me that it’s as positive as I would say it is.”

Horner said, “I think (the social climate) probably depends on who you ask and what their perspective is. I think (CHS is) generally a school where when issues are brought up, people do care.”

Maya Birhiray, GSA co-president and senior, said conditions for transgender students can still be difficult. 

Birhiray said while CHS has supportive communities and safe spaces like GSA, there are still transgender students who face difficulties in terms of acceptance. She said although most people are accepting, there are always some people who don’t accept or understand transgender individuals, prompting negative comments and actions.

Birhiray said, “Carmel is like any other place; it’s got those people who aren’t as accepting, so (acceptance is) really difficult for a lot of Carmel as a community. They haven’t gotten to a point where they can accept transgender students.”

On that note, Lucas said, “When I first came out, I was nervous. I was afraid I wasn’t going to get accepted by my friends and even people I didn’t know.”

Horner said he believes the environment for transgender students at Carmel mirrors society in general, as transgender students must navigate their problems in an unstable environment.

“I would say generally those students are navigating a lot of issues (that) other students are not, and they’re doing so in an environment that either is, or is perceived to be, hostile,” Horner said.

According to the American Psychological Association, supporting and aiding transgender students is a major responsibility of school administration.

Lucas said, for him, a simple conversation with his counselor allowed for his name and gender marker to change.

“I truly believe that the administration’s policy on transgender students makes (the transition) very easy. They really do want what’s best for me and other transgender kids,” Lucas said. 

Birhiray agreed and said, “I think (the) administration really tries to do what they can for transgender students, gay students, that kind of idea. As far as I know, they don’t really tolerate bullying.”

Factors such as a lack of education and awareness about transgender issues can also lead to a negative environment, but Horner said this is because it’s a newer issue for schools.

On that note, Birhiray said the presence of clubs like GSA allows for education and awareness about transgender youth. Birhiray said the GSA encourages transgender members to educate other members on their experiences when they discuss transgender topics.

Lucas said surrounding himself with people who are educated about transgender issues and are supportive creates a positive and welcoming environment for him.

“Who you surround yourself with also affects the conversations you have,” Lucas said. “I always feel like I have someone on my side.”

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