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A Fairer Williamston

By Nicole Ellefson

It was a warm summer day. I sat next to my grandmother in the garden. This visit was not to be like any other visit. Not only would we sit and watch the wind in the trees and admire the flowers. Today was a day that my child had been dreading. My eldest was the first great-grandchild born to GG. The two of them had forged an instant and special bond. When Reid gathered the courage to come out to the world as transgender, it was coming out to GG that scared him most. She was 95 and born of a different time and place. He was scared that she would cut him off, deny him, or refuse to see him, he couldn’t even come with me.

When I sat down with her and told her that my eldest was transgender, all she said was, “Are you sure?” By then, we’d seen many therapists, specialists, and doctors. We were sure. From that point on, my grandmother never missed a beat—never called my son by his birth name, never messed up and used she/her instead of he/him. Her support was the most precious gift she ever gave to my son.

Right now, way too many LGBT children are not given this same respect and dignity at school. In 2015, 13% of LGB kids in Michigan reported that they had been threatened or injured with a weapon at school, compared to 6% of their straight peers. The numbers are even more desperate for transgender kids in schools. A 2015 national survey of transgender people, found that in Michigan:

• 55% of transgender people were harassed for being transgender during their school years.

• 26% of transgender students were physically attacked during their school years because they are transgender.

• 75% of transgender students didn’t feel safe at school.

That’s appalling. Terrifying. However, these terrible statistics and the suffering of children they represent aren’t because of who they are. The children suffer because of environments that don’t support them and because of the discrimination they face. These terrible statistics can be changed. And we have that power. We need to create a supportive space for LGBT kids.

We know what it takes. LGBT guidance policies, such as the ones proposed by the Michigan State Board of Education and recently passed by Williamston Community Schools, make a huge difference in the school climate our kids live in. We know that when we support LGBT kids, they thrive—and so do their peers.


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