By Hanna Plotnik
Transgender youth and adults face a disproportionate amount of discrimination at home, in their neighborhood, at school and at work, according to speakers at a workshop held Jan. 11 by a Jewish community group to help educate Valley stakeholders about transgender issues.
Gender expression is the fifth-most common reason students are bullied at school, and due to their negative experiences at school, trans students are over three times more likely than their LGBQ peers not complete high school, said Madelaine Adelman, associate professor of Justice and Social Inquiry at Arizona State University.
Adelman was one of the speakers at the transgender workshop sponsored by the Aleinu Program of North Central Phoenix-based Jewish Family & Children’s Service.
Also talking to parents, educators and counselors was Cammy Bellis, director of the Transgender Education program at Arizona State University.
Trans students face discrimination in schools due to being unable to participate in gender-segregated activities and face exclusion and health concerns when unable to access gender-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms, Adelman said.
“Trans and gender non-conforming youth and adults want to thrive, but many are just fighting to survive,” Adelman pointed out.
Bellis added, “Parents of trans youth are fighting the battles for their children so they can be their true selves at school. Many of these parents wish they could shield their children from this discrimination but unfortunately they find out how our society currently operates.”
Adelman said it is important for schools and parents to get in front of issues, before problems arise in schools and workplaces.
Jewish Family & Children’s Service hosted the workshop as part of its Aleinu Program; Aleinu comes from a Hebrew word, meaning “it is our responsibility,” said Jessica Levin, Aleinu program coordinator and clinician.
“We are just all about offering as much help and support to all different types of people, different cultures, different backgrounds, and different educational levels, so the more that we can do to help create awareness and inform people about different resources the better,” Levin said.
Cynthia Baysdorfer, a licensed professional counselor at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, attended the workshop because it was a relevant topic. “The very next day I met a family who has an 11-year-old trans male child. I felt more equipped and educated to work with him,” Baysdorfer said.
There is a trend in recent surveys where young people tend to reject rigid boundaries when it comes to gender or sexuality, and they will likely continue to blur those boundaries, Adelman pointed out.
“All of us deserve safety, dignity, and equal access and opportunity,” Adelman said. “None of us should have to negotiate our safety, bargain for dignity, or be held back by a lack of equal access or opportunity, regardless of our gender identity or gender expression. It is that simple.”