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An Open Letter to a Trans Student

I may not ever know your name and I may not ever meet you, but I want you to know you are loved. You are family. Every day that you get up, get ready, and head to school honors your ancestors. Never forget that people fought for your right to exist. The world is still a scary place, but recognize that millions of people heard Lady Gaga sing the word “transgender” during half time at the Super Bowl.

Our history should motivate you to fight. Our history should inspire you to be the best person possible. Our history should teach you to show up and be there for your family. But our history is not in the curriculum. We are not a common core standard. We are a skipped page or a hushed tone from an uncomfortable teacher. We are self-starters and lifelong learners aching to make up for a curriculum that didn’t teach us our history — a curriculum that didn’t teach us who we are.

Marsha P. Johnson didn’t throw the first brick for us to just go gently into the night. The Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society didn’t risk everything to build a community for us to give up on. If you don’t know who Marsha P. Johnson is, look her up. If my reference to the first brick confuses you, look it up. You get the drift.

Queer people, transgender people are some of the toughest people on this earth because there are no other choices but toughness. Each day that you not only survive, but also thrive proves that you will keep making it in this world. An education is your right — go out there and exercise that right. Education sets you free.

I can’t promise that you will be afforded the best access to education. I can’t promise that your teachers will say your correct name or pronoun. I can’t promise that you won’t walk down the hallway to jeers or taunts. What I can promise, however, is that we are cheering for you. We believe in you. We believe in your power to change the world. We believe in your ability to fight harder than us. You are not alone.

Last week, our Vice President cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm the next Secretary of Education. The CNN notification illuminated my phone as I sat in our workroom at school. I let my phone screen go black and got back to work. Teachers shared the confirmation announcement in passing with an eye roll and a sly smile. At the end of the day, we knew our day-to-day would not change.

Uncertainty reigns in our world right now. Change the things you need to change. Breathe when you need to breathe. Study hard, but get sleep, too. We need you learning every day. We’ll take care of things until you are ready.

Alex Yates

About the author

Alex Yates (he/him)

Alex Yates is a transgender teacher who seeks to create community and inclusivity through education. Follow him on Instagram @askmeaboutmycats or send him an email.