Post submitted by Johanna Eager, Welcoming Schools Deputy Director of Program Development and Strategic Partnerships
During the past few years I’ve had the privilege of watching Leslie Lagerstrom, the mom behind the blog transparenthood and her transgender son, Sam, as they’ve shared their experiences with educators at Welcoming Schools trainings
By sharing their stories they give K-12 educators the opportunity to look more closely at gender and the experiences of transgender and gender expansive students.
Hopefully this perspective also allows educators to consciously create a safer, more welcoming classroom environment for transgender students and all students.
Sam first volunteered to share his story with educators when he was in tenth grade—certainly, not a step every transgender student would want to take.
Over the years Sam, took the initiative to review and revise how he tells his story - a testament to his deep commitment to make the K-12 experience a safer one for transgender students than he experienced himself.
For a 12th grade assignment recently published by the Huffington Post, Sam explained how a summer debate camp he’d been looking forward to began to feel far less safe and welcoming:
After orientation activities and dorm festivities, a group of eight guys from around the country, including me, effortlessly became a tight-knit pack of friends. We quickly formed an inseparable group that I have mixed feelings about to this day; in a span of just a few days, I heard every one of those guys make gay slurs and jokes. Every time I heard them, I felt as though they were hurling stones at my weakening armor…
Sticks and stones could probably cut my skin, but words will render me speechless.
When these guys started making intersex and transvestite jokes, I felt powerless and realized that their words affected me more because of the respect I otherwise had for them. I lay awake at night and asked myself several questions over and over again: What would they think of me? Could we be friends if they knew? Without even knowing about me they made me feel weaker than ever before, as I did not have any power in their spaces.
His story is for both those who have faced any type of discrimination on a daily basis due to their identity and those who are not aware of how their words can impact and diminish those around them. Read the story here.