Being a kid is tough. They’re made fun of for things are simple as a gap in their two front teeth. But they’re also teased for being overweight or having a learning disability. In their formative years, kids have a hard time developing compassion and practicing empathy. And in this age of cyberbullying, interconnectivity and trolling, teasing has morphed into something more damaging than most of us could have imagined. For young trans kids, the playground is a dangerous place.
A Manchester woman recently went on record with BBC News to discuss the bullying her 11-year-old trans daughter was experiencing at school. Her name and identity as well as that of her daughter were withheld.
In a disturbing incident, the mother said her daughter was shot with a BB gun by another student. While she didn’t suffer any serious injuries, the fact that it took place was frightening. She shared that her daughter had been bullied over the last five months and that things were only getting worse.
She also expressed anger at the school for doing little to stop the bullying incidents. BBC reports that that Manchester Police Department is investigating the BB gun shooting. But more action is needed.
The school has since expelled the student who fired the gun, but the mother feels the school could have prevented the shooting if they’d acted sooner based on her earlier complaints.
Portland NBC affiliate WCSH6 has taken a look into the life of trans kids in a three-part series. In one part of the series, reporter Tory Ryden takes a magnifying glass to 12-year-old Penelope’s life. Penelope was born as half of a set of identical twin boys. As early as 2 years old, she told her mother Barbara that she was a girl.
At 11 years old, she made a video announcing she was a girl. That video was played for the students at Berwick Academy, a school where she felt safe enough to be her true self.
The school and community came forward to accept Penelope with open arms. Berwick Academy is home to a gender and sexual diversity inclusion club. The school has also worked tirelessly to make her feel safe. They’ve dug into school policies and renamed single-stall restrooms as gender neutral bathrooms.
Now that she’s opened up to the school, she’s focusing on her own transition. She’s taking hormones to block male puberty, and further down the road, she’ll decide if gender reassignment surgery is right for her.
The young Manchester girl’s incident is an example of what happens when communities don’t actively work to stop discrimination or teach tolerance. Penelope is an example of how young trans kids can flourish when the people around them are educated. Penelope’s story offers tons of hope. But the BB gun incident is unfortunately more reflective of trans kids’ daily struggles in school.
As time passes, more tolerance and compassion on behalf of our schools will change this narrative for the better.