Speech to Buncombe County Board of Education

Delivered By Blue Ridge Pride Executive Director, Tina Madison White, on August 3, 2017 on behalf of Emma, a first grade transgender girl who has faced discrimination, derision, and harassment from teachers in her school system. The first of two  such speeches.

When I was a teen, I penned the following in my journal.

Dear Tom,

I hate your guts!  Why must you be so miserably pathetic? What are you hiding? You are just a mask. A miserable putty mask.

I don’t hate you.  I pity and despise you.  Goddamn you! Why don’t you just crawl into a hole and die?

For the first fifty years of my life, I tortured myself, trying to conform to societal norms. I tried church, prayer, contact sports, all-boy schools, marriage, therapy – anything to fix myself.  “Please, God,” I begged, “fix me.  Anything but this!”

When Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope lens, he was the first human being to look upon a germ.  Before that, when someone fell ill, we questioned their soul. Today, we call a doctor.
We don’t have a lens yet to understand people like me. But we do know a few things: Gender dysphoria is so painful that over 40% of us apparently prefer death. Today’s medical protocols – though far from perfect – are a godsend. Fewer than 1% of us express regrets.  85% of us report being happier.   Would you deny any loved one such odds?
What I find most remarkable about  these statistics is that we report being happier despite the horrible prejudice we face.

Must you condone such prejudice? Absent a clear school policy, you subject a transgender child to institutionally sanctioned bullying.
We have all feared a bully in our lives. A bully is someone with the power to arbitrarily threaten and control you.  Without a consistent policy, anyone – a student, teacher, administrator, or parent – has the power to make a transgender child’s life a living hell.
We already have that.
Who is the threat here?  The transgender child trying to relieve themselves in dignity?  Or the hundreds who look on and demonize them?

Your job isn’t easy. Heaven knows, my family, friends and colleagues all struggled with my transition. But they have never been more proud of me than they are today. Twenty years from now, you will be proud of yourselves, too.  And of the children you nurtured and protected today. And of the parents, teachers and children who learned tolerance at your hand.

Allowed to live, we can contribute a lot to society.
Please … love us for who we are. It’s all we have.

Thank you!