This past summer, I was washing my hands in a public restroom when a woman, her voice filled with disgust, said, "Young man, are you in the right bathroom?" I walked out of that room shaken and worried.
That woman was not the first or the last person in my life to have questions about gender.
The reactions to me and to my work tend to be mixed.
As a youth educator, a serious issue is being taken seriously. I am currently a senior in high school, and I can pass for much younger than 17. When I whip out words like "genderqueer" in my work with adults, my knowledge of transgender identities is written off as a "new youth thing." I was once asked by an adult in a support group meeting why I even thought my "gender thing" was "real."
Within the LGBT community, it is very difficult to talk to cisgender adults about transphobia, as I've learned in my workshops. Many of them believe that their activism has always been trans-inclusive and inclusive of all queer identities, even when in actuality they only cater to the cisgender gay and lesbian communities.
READ MORE: "How I Went From Blogger to Crusader For Trans People"
Outside of the queer community and its allies, cisgender, heterosexual adult professionals usually enter my workshops totally oblivious and leave confused. It is incredibly difficult to make someone a Super Trans Ally™ in less that 20 minutes.
As a kid, my first exposure to trans identities was through watching a dehumanizing, disrespectful TV interview with a transwoman, something that is still incredibly common. For these adults, it is much of the same. The understanding of the transgender community that the majority of social workers and juvenile justice professionals in MCAP trainings hold is the hurtful, transmisogynistic trope of "men in dresses."
When I work with other youth, the dialogue about trans identities is much more respectful, regardless of the audience. Our generation is coming of age in a world with Isis King and Laverne Cox on TV, with activists like Janet Mock taking a stand for trans inclusiveness on the national stage. Their visibility makes coming out and allyship easier. Despite the horrific actions of groups like the Pacific Justice Institute, transgender people are becoming part of American narratives.
The culture is changing slowly, but surely; this generation of young people will be the least transphobic yet. What we need is for adults to get on our level.
READ MORE: "Our Generation's Media Will Smash Gender Stereotypes"