In 2008, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot his classmate Larry King, a 15-year-old gender non-conforming and Black student, in Oxnard, California.
While the horrific crime occurred almost a decade ago, the lessons from the case, such as the intersection of race and gender and the impact of bullying, prejudice and intolerance from peers and teachers, still ring true today.
“Gender-and-race hate cannot be disentangled,” Ken Corbett, author of A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High, told The Atlantic in the fall of 2015. “We see evidence of this in the 20 trans women who’ve been murdered this year in the U.S., 18 of whom were women of color. We see evidence of this in the ways in which black bodies are always precarious, always at risk of death, especially black adolescent boy bodies, and how that risk is routinely denied by white supremacy.”
Corbett followed this case closely, examining not only the personal lives of the two protagonists, but also the school and community they grew up in.
“Living gender, especially as it blooms in adolescence, brings forth a host of emotions and counter-emotions or defenses,” Corbett said. “When a group of people, such as schoolteachers, cannot consider those emotions, cannot discuss what is being felt and thought about gender, cannot learn together, then gender expansiveness can be felt as too much, and reactive discipline short-circuits any building of community.”
Over the past several years, new conversations around gender have been emerging across the nation. Increased visibility of children and youth whose gender identities and expressions challenge conventional understanding is teaching us that gender is not that simple.
As a consequence, many of society’s practices, policies and institutions are failing to meet the needs of the young people they intend to serve. Perhaps most disheartening, these shortcomings are revealed in the degree to which many youth — particularly those who do not fit our more traditional ideas about gender — feel marginalized, unsafe and less hopeful.
HRC's groundbreaking survey of over 10,000 LGBT-identified youth found that a mere four percent of gender-expansive youth reported being “very happy.” Additionally, 44 percent of gender-expansive youth strongly agreed that would need to move to another city or town to really feel accepted. Only 28 percent strongly agreed that things would get better.
From creating an inclusive learning environment for students, to understanding the challenges and resiliency of LGBTQ youth, there is more we can all do to support LGBTQ youth at home, in school and in our community. To learn more, click here.