Children should not be constrained by gender stereotypes

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Every day, students in various communities hide who they are to avoid discrimination. This needs to stop.

The people I’m talking about are those who identify as transgender.

You may be wondering what the term transgender even means. Let me break it down for you. Transgender, at its most basic level, is a word that applies to someone who doesn’t fit within society’s standards of how a woman or a man is supposed to look or act. For example, transgender may be used to describe a person who was assigned female at birth but later realized that label doesn’t accurately reflect the gender tha person actually feels inside.

Definitions are important because some people don’t understand exactly what transgender means. When people don’t understand something, they’re often irrationally afraid of it. That’s called a phobia.

A transgender person who was born a woman may now live life as a man or may feel that his or her gender identity can’t be truly summed up by either of the two options we’re usually given. The transgender person might feel like he or she is in between those two options (both male and female) or outside the two-gender system entirely (neither male nor female.)

I know in certain communities, this one included, the idea of a transgender person, let alone a whole community of people who identify this way, strikes some sort of chord of morality. To those people I say there is nothing immoral about being transgender.

Take Coy Mathis, a flamboyant 6-year-old girl from Colorado. Coy was born with male anatomy, but at the age of 18 months, she started displaying female attributes, according to her parents. How can anyone say any actions of an 18-month-old are immoral?

People will say that maybe her parents made her act like a girl or didn’t “teach her correctly.” These people are ignorant. They believe gender roles are biological. This is completely false. Gender roles are societally based, meaning a society tells men and women how to act. A person’s sex, as in the anatomy this person was born with, is biological and has nothing to do with the actual gender of a child.

In the case of Coy, she’s been denied the right to use the girl’s restroom at her elementary school, even though she is a girl. This has caused her to become an unlikely poster child for the transgendered movement.

This sort of discrimination is happening everywhere. An MMA fighter in Florida is under investigation because she used to have male genitals. Students and lawmakers in California are rallying for transgender rights. Many other people are hiding who they truly are for fear of not being accepted by friends, family and society in general.

For those of you saying discrimination against transgender people isn’t a big deal, I have one question for you: If you were told by everyone you knew, and even by people you didn’t know, that everything about you was fundamentally and morally wrong, would you be OK? Would you be OK being cast out, sometimes labeled as mentally ill, in a world that despises you simply because you’re not like everyone else?

A staggering 41 percent of transgender people in the United States have attempted to commit suicide, according to Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which was published in 2011.  In 2009, the total number of suicide deaths was 36,909, according to the National Vital Statistics Reports. By that math, and taking into account that those numbers are still similar for 2012, more than 15,000 transgender people committed suicide. That’s 15,000 human lives gone.

What if among those 15,000 were your friends, your coworker or your children? How would you feel if someone you loved took his or her own life because you weren’t accepting of who your friend was, of the fact that your loved one was transgender?

So, students of Dixie State University, all I can ask is that you be as accepting as you possibly can. If your friends and loved ones come to you and tell you they are transgender, do not turn them away. Do not look down on them. Welcome them, tell them they are still loved, and accept them for who they are, not who you think they should be. Explain to others what the term transgender actually means; do not allow the people you know to continue on in ignorance. Do not allow yourself to continue on in ignorance.