Even Small Towns in the Bible Belt Are Learning to Accept Transgender Youth July 1, 2018

Even Small Towns in the Bible Belt Are Learning to Accept Transgender Youth

The South is not exactly a friendly place for transgender kids. But a handful of children, whose stories are featured in the latest Rolling Stone, are finding hope.

“I have so many friends like, ‘I can’t believe you live in Alabama, especially having a child that’s transgender,” says Allie’s mom Kimberly, who was instantly smitten with Southern hospitality. “When we go out places, everybody’s so friendly and so nice. They all want to talk to you.”

After all, Alabama is home to Roy Moore, the embattled Senate candidate who campaigned on anti-LGBT vitriol and still garnered 48 percent of the vote. Alabama was ranked the number-one most religious state by the Pew Research Center and the state doesn’t have a non-discrimination law covering gender identity or sexual orientation.

Yet southern Alabama has been a kind of haven for Allie and her family.

For a country plagued by one tragedy after another, I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this article. Decent people do exist: you just have to look for them.

After Allie’s story is that of Landon, a trans teenager living in Texas:

“People definitely have these stereotypes about what it means to be a queer person in the South,” Landon says. “I even have these perceptions of the South: extremely conservative, Trump flags around every corner. And, in some cases, that’s true.”

But living in plain sight, he says, are legions of LGBTQ southerners and their allies.

What I found so surprising is the massive community that we have here,” Landon says. “People that are proud and out and who are able to live their lives at work, at school and with their families.”

“It’s so important that people can see Landon and go, ‘Yeah he’s a good dude, whatever. Oh he’s trans, OK,” Goldstein says. “And you can say, you know, nothing to see here. It’s not a big deal.”

Many people have their minds changed about the so-called trans “lifestyle” by meeting trans people face to face and hearing their stories. We saw it with with gays and lesbians, too; as people (especially younger ones) got to know them personally, it became much harder to support discrimination against them, to the point where two in three Americans now support marriage equality.

The stories of trans kids also show how damaging our society’s gender norms are in the first place, as if pink and blue or dolls and trucks can define who people are. The faster we get away from those kinds of identifiers, the faster our society will accept trans people, and these kids are helping shatter those stereotypes.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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