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Liam Whitney: Perspectives From a Lively, Lucid Teen

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Liam Whitney, 14, is a freshman at Pioneer High School  in Ann Arbor MI. Like many students his age, he likes watching anime, singing, and drawing. But under all that, there is something special, something different about Whitney: He is transgender.

A transgender person is someone whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. In the U.S. there are over 1.4 million transgender Americans.

About three years ago, a friend of Whitney’s came out as male to female  — MTF —  transgender. It was then that Whitney started to learn about what it meant to be transgender.

“I already knew a bit about the term, but I never really looked into it that much,” Whitney said. “I later decided to do some research. It felt like a big relief; the definition was truly how I really felt about my gender.’’

Within the next twelve months, Whitney started to come out as female to male [FTM] transgender.

Even though it took Whitney awhile to realize his true identity, for others it takes longer. In 2016, Whitney and his friends  — who were attending Slauson Middle School at the time formed their school’s first Gay Straight Alliance [GSA].

“Slauson didn’t really have a lot of LGBTQ support,” Whitney said. “We then decided to start a club for all of the LGBT kids and allies at Slauson. It was a safe space, where students could talk about their feelings and their experiences without being judged.” To this day the GSA is still up and running at Slauson.

Every day there are struggles transgender people face.

“One of the main problems is bathrooms,” Whitney said.  

Starting in mid-2016, schools around the country started allowing transgender students to use any bathroom of their choice, regarding the sex they’re originally assigned to.

The Michigan State Board of Education and Ann Arbor Public Schools District approved the transgender and gender non-conforming students policy. It was intended to state a non-discrimination action for students attending public school, on June 28, 2017.

“At Pioneer, I usually prefer to use the gender-neutral bathrooms that are there, but they’re usually locked and hard to access,” Whitney continued.  “Another problem that I have experienced is transphobia.”

Transphobia is the intense dislike of or fear against transsexual or transgender people.

“At Slauson, I had multiple experiences with transphobia, but it only made me stronger, and I became a lot more tolerant of ignorant people,” Whitney said.

“I have come to realize that people are scared of difference,” Whitney said. “That is why when they see something different or new, they usually deny its existence or degrade it. Along with many hardships of being transgender, a lot of great things have happened too. I have met many new people, and I am also a lot more open to new things and changes.”

 

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