Body Political

(Originally published on Gender Splendor in Fall 2013)

My body is a political weapon. I’m not talking about just the fact my body is a transgender one either. I am a walking political billboard, by my own choice. I use my body, especially how I dress my body, as a statement every time I go out into public. I am a visibly queer and transgender person. While I dress rather gender non-conforming (since I am a non-binary person who prefers feminine clothing, heels, and extreme colors), there is something much more eye catching than that.

I wear a hoodie, covered in buttons and patches ranging from simple trans pride flags to loud exclamations of gender terrorist, the gender binary is a form of hierarchy and oppression, and your silence will not save you. From the moment I walk out the door of my grandmother’s house, I am setting out on the table who and what I am. I am THAT queer person who introduces themselves as queer almost before they give you their name.

This simple article of clothing has become an important part of me. I love being visible. I find empowerment in it. I love knowing that the moment I walk into a place, I automatically get the label of queer (or some form of it). Every day is some form of social experiment depending on where I go and it seems to be a bigger success than my topless NYC Pride statement (where everyone just thought I was a hairy lesbian. More planning needed for next year). If people are not staring at me, I am probably at a friend’s house. Everywhere I go, people stare and look.

I enjoy the recognition though. I’ve had several people compliment my hoodie and strike up conversations on queer politics. I have yet to have a negative interaction aside from the dagger stares. Does this mean I do not experience discomfort or fear due to being visibly queer? Not at all. Every time I go somewhere by myself, I risk danger. This is especially true in places such as public bathrooms. Even before my hoodie, I was visibly queer. As I previously mentioned, I am a non-binary trans person, when it comes to presenting. I will waltz into a men’s room in heels and booty shorts. I am who I am, and I am bloody proud of it.

Yet, as a trans person who is seen as male, I am lucky that I get the privilege of being somewhat more safe than my trans women friends (and girlfriend) by being visibly queer. Just this morning, my girlfriend was telling me how every day she sees a new article about a trans woman being murdered. She is terrified of being in public despite having no qualms being openly trans online. She must hide herself for her own safety. It’s not an exaggeration or her over-reacting either, since 53% of anti-queer homicides are trans women. That means half of all murders of queer people are against trans women.

This means that my girlfriend, who does not want to live her life as a political figure like me, is more likely to be harassed, murdered, and assaulted for being trans than I am. My girlfriend, who wishes to just live her life as the beautiful woman she is, is more likely to face hardship than a walking queer billboard like me. This is one of the reasons I am a visibly queer person. By using my privilege to help make trans and queer people more visible. However, this does not mean we do not need trans women and other queer people, especially people of color to be visible. In fact, we need more visible trans women, especially in the face of such adversity. We need to show the world that we are here, queer, and not going anywhere, that we are stronger than they take us to be.

We need visible queer people, of all shades. However, we must remember that queer identity intersects with race, gender, and other forms of minority status. We need to remember to let these people ahead of those who, even despite sharing a queer identity, have their voices silenced even in queer discussions. We must not let our privilege affect ourselves as queer people.

Thus, if you are able, I suggest being visible in any way you can. Whether it is just online, a subtle pin, anything. We need to let people know we are everywhere, every type of person, and that we are part of every aspect of other people’s lives. Of course, personal safety comes first. If you do not feel safe being out, do not do it. We need everyone alive. Our lives are worth too much. However, we need to band together, the more there are, the louder we are. We need to not silence those who are one with us, for we are all queer people. We must be wary of our own privileges inside of our own community. We need to turn this rumble into a full out roar.


Orlando: Not the First, Not the Last

To help the survivors and the families of the victims, please look here: and

On Sunday, June 12, 2016, 49 people were murdered. Another 53 were injured. The majority were LGBTQ Latinx people celebrating Latinx night at Pulse Nightclub. During Pride month. These people were targeted specifically, with the location having been scouted by the shooter. According to patrons, the shooter was also seen several times at the club and known for getting drunk and angry. He was also known for extreme racism and homophobia. This means the shooter knew that night there would be a large gathering of QPoC. This is not the first or the last time queer people (usually of color) have been targeted.

Before Orlando there was:

Compton Cafeteria Riots in San Francisco in August 1966.

Stonewall Police Raid in New York City on June 27-28, 1969.

The UpStairs Lounge Fire in New Orleans on June 24, 1973. 32 dead.

AIDS Crisis from the 1980s to 1990s. Thousands dead.

Otherside Lounge in Atlanta in February 1997.  5 injured.

Backstreet Café in Roanoke in September 2000. 1 dead. 7 injured.

Neighbors in Seattle on December 31, 2013. None injured.

These are only a handful of incidents. There have been more and continue to be more. 1 in 5 LGBTQ people will be the victim of a hate crime of some sort. The majority of these people will be QPoC, especially trans women of color. The same world that fostered people like the Orlando shooter continues to function and will continue to function as it has after Stonewall, after the UpStairs Lounge Fire, after the AIDS crisis, so on and so forth. Small steps have been made but the United States still works on a system of racism and queerphobia that criminalizes queer bodies, especially if they are black or brown. 20-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide. Laws are attempting to be passed all across the country that bar transgender people from using the restrooms that they feel comfortable in. 80% of the LGBTQ people killed are racial/ethnic minorities.

Orlando will happen again. It continues to happen every day in smaller scales. We lose LGBTQ people to suicide, depression, addiction. We lose them to hate crimes. We lose them to fear and self-loathing. We lose LGBTQ people every day but it takes us to be murdered en masse to be recognized for the problematic culture that breeds people like the Orlando shooter. Yet people like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Pat McCrory, Phil Bryant, Bill Haslam and so many more have power to enact laws that further criminalize the basic existence of LGBTQ people. There are over 100+ anti-LGBTQ laws being passed or attempting to be passed right now.

Orlando will happen again. Just like Islan Nettle wasn’t the first or the last. Just like Leelah Acorn wasn’t the first or the last. Just like Brandon Teena wasn’t the first or the last. Just like Mercedes Successful, Reecey Walker, Keyonna Blakeney, Shantee Isacc, and the other 10 trans people killed alone this year, these 49 individuals, killed out of hate, will not be the last.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Nearly half the victims were Puerto Rican. Some of them were undocumented people. The liberation of LGBTQ people is not separate of the liberation of people of color. These liberations are intertwined as the liberation of the LGBTQ community hinders on the liberation of PoC from the prison-industrial complex (which targets QPoC harshly), systematic racism, poverty, deportation, detention, and even the racism inside the LGBTQ community itself. Together, not separate. Our struggles have been intertwined from the beginning, from the first bricks at Stonewall being thrown by trans women of color to this very tragedy which targeted QPoC on a night of celebration of race AND their gender/sexuality. To remove race from this fight is to erase history, to erase our own community, erase our most vulnerable.

Unless the current culture and climate towards LGBTQ people, people of color, and systematic oppression as a whole changes, Orlando will happen again. It will continue to happen in every queer suicide, every child kicked from home, every child who leaves school, every queer person of color thrown into the prison-industrial complex. Orlando is not a single event nor a culmination of a single person. It’s the result of a society and environment with a gun fetish that hates queer people, especially queer people of color. Orlando will happen again unless you begin to stop it. Call out those making homophobic remarks. Lobby against anti-LGBTQ bills. Confront those using gay slurs. It is the moments of silence in these times that culminate into the society that devalues queer life.

And yet, despite these tragedies and this environment, as a community, LGBTQ people remain resilient. We live openly for ourselves and those that cannot. We still have Pride. We still live and we still love. We express ourselves in the very face of a nation and a people who spit in our faces. LGBTQ people are some of the strongest people for simply existing because we have to be. Every single LGBTQ person is strong for existing in this world, whether they are open or not. It takes strength to be open and it takes strength to hold to burden of being silent. Regardless, every single LGBTQ person is worthy of life, love and happiness regardless if the country believes you do or not.

If you are scared, you have every right to be. There are people who are here for you. You are not alone. None of us are alone.

SOMA: A Trans-Simon Experience

This piece will talk about story spoilers and various other game spoilers for SOMA. I suggest playing the game yourself or watching an LP of the game before reading this piece. You can also look over the SOMA wikia to inform yourself of the story and key events. Without this game/story knowledge, this piece may be confusing.

—SOMA SPOILERS BELOW— Continue reading

SOMA: The WAU, the Monsters, and You.

I recently finished SOMA and have a lot to say about the sound design and even more to say about the evolution of the monsters throughout the story and the WAU’s involvement in it. This piece will be loaded with SOMA spoilers so if you have no finished the game or at least watched a playthrough, I urge you to do that before even going past the spoiler line. There are story spoilers abound, you’ve been warned.


Continue reading

The Impact of School Environments on LGBTQ Youth


The impact of negative school environments were examined on LGBTQ youth, focusing on the mental and academic areas. LGBTQ students who experienced higher rates of victimization experienced more frequent school and mental health problems. Students in supportive environments experienced less frequent school issues, especially if the school staff showed support and understanding. Studies show and support that negative school environments have long-lasting repercussions for LGBTQ students that influence later life choices such as higher education as well as reported self-esteem and depression.

The Impact of School Environments on LGBTQ Youth

In the United States, the majority of youth spend most of their time in the education system. In this environment students learn not only about math, social studies, and various other topics, but about how to interact with peer groups, form life-long social relationships, and learn about themselves, their identities, and their place in the world. While school is meant to be a mostly learning environment, the social aspects of the school experience cannot be ignored. Due to this social aspect of school, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) youth face special hardships due to their sexuality and gender that are not faced by their heterosexual and cisgender peers (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). These hardships are not caused by peers alone but also from faculty and staff as well which creates an even more negative environment for LGBTQ youth.

This victimization takes many forms from vocal, to verbal, to sexual. Students face anti-queer sentiments from simply hearing their sexuality used as an insult (“That’s so gay”) to having laws and lawsuits placed against their needs such as using the correct restrooms in the case of transgender students (Biegel, 2010; Kosciw, Greytak, Palmer, & Boesen, 2014). The harsher the responses and the source of the victimization have a direct connection with the response of the LGBTQ youth. The lack of support from faculty and staff in regards to peer issues leads to greater harm than students who face victimization but have the support of the school staff (Adelman & Woods, 2006).

These negative environments also lead to a decline in school attendance, lower GPA, mental health issues, and lack of goals for future education. The impact of the negative environment is harsh, taking its toll on not only on school based activities, but mental health as well. LGBTQ youth in unsupportive and negative school environments face lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression and even more suicidal ideations/thoughts that those whose environments are supportive of them (Adelman & Woods, 2006). This impact does not stop after the student leaves school but can leave lasting mental health issues that can lead to problems with substance abuse as well as problems with maintaining relationships later on in life (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, Harrison, & Herman, 2011).

The key is not only to tackle the negative environment but to make sure that the students also have a support structure as well. This includes clubs like Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), on the books anti-bullying policies, as well as training for faculty and staff in dealing with the specific needs of LGBTQ students (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). These support structures are crucial in taking the epidemic of problems faced by LGBTQ youth within the school system. Without these support structures, students have no way of creating an environment that is safe for them to grow, learn, and create lasting peer groups as well as positive self-esteem (Adelman & Woods, 2006; Biegel, 2010). Negative school environments lead to problems in school with attendance and GPA as well as mental health issues that last once the student leaves school. This paper will look over these negative school environments and these various impacts on LGBTQ students throughout their school careers.

Literature Review

Current literature on the impact of school environments on LGBTQ youth are mostly survey studies completed by self-identified LGBTQ youth grades K-12. The main focus is on high school but some studies, such as the National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, focus on all grades pre-college and focus on all students and their experiences with anti-LGBTQ sentiments in the school environment (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). This study, as well as others done by similarly large organizations, are broad in scope and focus on a mix of in school and online support to gather data and report their findings. Only one focuses on transgender people and their experiences, including issues in education, which is the Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Injustice at Every Turn (2011). In these studies, there have been several findings that all support the lasting impact on LGBTQ youth due to negative school environments. Each study finds similar problem areas due to anti-LGBTQ sentiments in peer and faculty actions and words which include attendance, grades, future academic goals, and mental health (specifically self-esteem and depression).

According to Kosciw, Greytak et al. (2014), students who experience higher levels of victimization based on their gender and/or sexual orientation are more likely to have reported missing school in the past month. For transgender youth, victimization may be so bad that in the study done by Grant et al. (2011), up to 15% reported dropping out of school entirely. This is a finding similar to those found by Adelman and Woods (2006) in which they found this number drops if the school has supportive environments such as a GSA or written anti-bullying rules that specifically mention gender identity and sexual orientation. Supportive environments are active environments for faculty, compared to the passive environments embodied by a negative school environment for LGBTQ youth. In the research done by Adelman and Woods (2006), students reported that non-actions of teachers led to the most negative environments, even going so far as to say that these passive faculty members helped create the hostile environments. Inaction is not a neutral stance in safe environments. Students need to feel actively supported by not only faculty but peer groups as well.

Attendance issues are not only related to students missing school due to harassment and abuse but also expulsion, suspension and other disciplinary actions based on their gender and/or sexual orientation. Five percent of transgender people reported being expelled for their gender identity (Grant et al., 2011). Two-thirds of LGBTQ students had reported being discriminated against for being openly LGBTQ or supporting LGBTQ peers and fellows in their schools (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). Disciplinary action based on LGBTQ status was also issued in a biased manner against students. For example, according to Kosciw, Greytak et al., (2014) LGBTQ students who engaged in public displays of affection (PDAs) were given warnings or other disciplinary actions while their heterosexual peers were ignored. Many students classified these discriminatory actions as part of the victimization they felt at the hands of faculty. This inaction or direct support of the negative school environment as reported by Adelman and Woods (2006) is something that students reported contributing largely to the negative school environments and harassment they received. Students feel like they have no recourse or way to defend themselves from peers, let alone faculty.

These issues were especially magnified in transgender students. While as previously mentioned, 5% reported being expelled due to their gender, many others faced issues in regards to accessing appropriate facilities, being allowed to wear clothing of the proper gender, or being recognizing by the proper name and pronouns (Grant et al., 2011; Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). These students reported being sent home due to their attire, ridiculed by staff and peers, as well as being made to go out of their way to use teacher restrooms as opposed to using the appropriate restroom for their gender (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). Transgender people often face ridicule outside of the school environment as well, facing issues at home due to their identity more often than their LGBQ peers (Grant et al., 2011). Unsafe and unsupportive school environments left transgender students with no place to be themselves or experience positive peer interactions. Without the support of faculty in respecting names, pronouns, dress, and other factors connected to the individual’s gender identity, transgender students report the highest amounts of victimization despite being one of the smallest parts of the LGBTQ population (Grant et al., 2011).

Supportive educators are found to help with attendance issues causes by anti-LGBTQ victimization. In study done by Kosciw, Palmer, Kull, and Greytak (2013), students whose faculty and staff were supportive and understanding of their situations and identities reported missing fewer days. This finding is backed by similar findings by Adelman & Woods (2006), who found that faculty who were openly supportive of their LGBTQ students were able to create safer environments than staff who were silent about their support for their students, even if they had given no indications they were unsupportive through words or action. Simply having one factor of support is not enough though. Students require active, and present supportive staff as well as positive portrayal in academics and extra-circulars in order to feel a positive connection with their school. Schools with GSAs reported lower rates of homophobic remarks (71.6% without vs 57.4% with), lower rates of feeling unsafe (64.4% without vs 46% with), and lower rates of high victimization based on gender (34% without versus 20.8% with) and/or sexual orientation (36.2% without vs 19% with) (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). The impact of inclusive curriculum dropped these numbers even more, halving the numbers of high victimization based on gender (30.5% without vs 14.1% with) and/or sexual orientation (31% without vs 14.1% with) (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014).

Adelman and Woods (2006) report that students feel the best when faculty, staff, and peers are not only open about their support but also actively participate in calling off anti-LGBTQ sentiments when they see them. For example, if a student uses gay in a derogatory way, students who witnessed teachers actively forbidding that type of language felt more supported (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). Students need to feel that staff is actively interested in making the school environment less hostile and more welcoming past just having policies in place. In the GLSEN National School Climate survey, almost half of students (49.5%) who had reported harassment and assault felt it was not effective (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). This finding is supported by a previous study done by Adelman and Woods (2006) in which students felt that reporting problems related to their gender and/or sexual orientation were pointless due to the general attitude of teachers and other faculty.

A negative impact on attendance also means a negative impact on grades. Students who miss more days of school tend to have lower GPAs due to missing work, assignments, and lectures (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). An increase in victimization was directly correlated to a lower GPA and lower academic achievement according to The National School Climate Survey (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). While the average GPA for students was 3.3, students who experienced high levels of victimization, whether verbal, physical, or sexual had an average GPA of 2.8 (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). These drops in GPA limit students even more when it comes to extra-curricular activities that participation is often based on due to GPA. The same trend was reported for students who experienced discriminatory practices from school faculty and policies based on their gender and/or sexual orientation (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014).

Positive representation in the school curriculum in relation to gender and/or sexual orientation does not only improve attendance and self-esteem but also helps improve a student’s GPA (Kosciw, Palmer et al., 2013; Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). Students are able to see themselves in their school work and are also able to apply their learning to their own lives. Students who have inclusive school curriculums can draw from their lives and place themselves in their school work without feeling excluded from it. As reported by Adelman and Woods (2006), issues faced by LGBTQ students are attributed to not feeling like they belong to their school or social groups and that this idea is supported by the lack of inclusiveness in the school education system. Students want and need to be able to see themselves in their learning environment for it to be considered a positive one.

These negative experiences in the school environment lead to a nearly double in percentage of students who were not planning to attend post-secondary school. For students who faced discrimination and victimization based on their sexual orientation the percentage jumped from 4.2% to 8.7% (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). For students who faced victimization and discrimination based on their gender identity, the percentage went from 4.4% to 8.2% (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). Victimization does not end at the end of high school either, as many LGBTQ people report problems in college and other post-secondary schooling based on their gender and/or sexual orientation (Biegel, 2010; Grant, et al., 2011).

These issues with schooling can lead to employment issues later in life. LGBTQ adults, especially transgender adults, experience higher levels of poverty when compared to their cisgender and heterosexual peers (Biegel, 2010; Grant et al., 2011). One of these contributing factors is a lack of education due to a lack of post-secondary schooling, low GPA, dropping out, or various other factors which can be contributed to hostile school climates (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012; Adelman & Woods, 2006). However, there are also many other contributing factors that can conflate the connections between school environment and future employment such as mental health issues, substance abuse, and family problems which are much higher in LGBTQ populations than the general population (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012).

Suicide attempts are four times higher in LGBQ youth, and up to eight times higher in transgender youth (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). Self-esteem issues and depression are also reported in higher rates in these populations. Students who experience victimization in their school environments report higher instances of depression and report lower self-esteem directly correlated with the amount of victimization they face (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). These impacts on mental health report back to issues with previously discussed topics such as GPA and attendance. Students who reported lower self-esteem also had lower GPAs and more missed days of school (Kosciw, Palmer et al., 2013). For transgender people who reported issues with school, especially physical and sexual violence, there were issues later in life such as higher levels of substance abuse, depression, and lower self-esteem (Grant et al., 2011).

Students who are out (meaning they are open about their gender and/or sexual orientation) experience a double-edged sword in their experiences. These students report a higher level of self-esteem as well as are more likely to feel they belonged to their peer group (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). However, these same students faced significantly more victimization for their sexual orientation and/or gender. Thirty-three percent of students who were out reported high rates of victimization based on their sexuality by staff (versus only 22.8% for those not out) and 31.3% reported this coming from peers (versus only 18.9% for those not out) (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). For transgender students, the numbers are not as drastic, changing only from 24.8% to 29.4% for staff and 24% to 28% for peers (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014).

Students who faced problems with faculty also felt lower levels of self-esteem due to a feeling of hopelessness in their situation (Adelman & Woods, 2006). Students who feel supported through hands on inclusion report higher rates of self-esteem as reported by Kosciw, Palmer et al. (2013). However, students who simply had inclusive anti-bullying measures or a GSA did not correlate with a reported higher self-esteem which shows that actions of faculty, staff and peers are much more impactful on the mental health of LGBTQ students (Adelman & Woods, 2006; Kosciw, Palmer et al., 2013).

All of these factors are directly connected with the amount of victimization based on the gender or sexuality of the student. Students who experience higher amounts of victimization face more issues not just in school but out of school with their mental health and into their adult life. It is important to note again that this victimization does not come just from peers but from faculty as well. The support of the faculty and the environment has a positive effect on the well-being of the students, not just those who are LGBTQ and helps create a better learning environment for all students (Adelman & Woods, 2006; Kosciw, Palmer et al., 2013). Negative school environments negatively impact LGBTQ students on both academic and personal levels.


Supportive faculty and staff are critical when creating positive environments for LGBTQ students. As previously discussed, students who experienced support from faculty and staff also reported drastically lower numbers of victimization, hearing slurs, and thus, had a better outlook on self and school in general (Kosciw, Palmer et al., 2013). In-school supports are the most important factor in removing negative environments and creating one of positive support. There are three major factors that are included in this as supported by the studies of Adelman and Woods (2006) and Kosciw, Palmer et al. (2013).

The biggest factor in the negative environments reported by students was the perpetuation of anti-LGBTQ sentiment by staff and teachers (Adelman & Woods, 2006). They also reported the non-involvement of the faculty as a major problem. These students discussed how staff would ignore their requests for help, or actively use or engage in homophobic or transphobic bigotry (Adelman & Woods, 2006). This creates a culture of anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the school, leaving students to feel powerless in their ability to find safety and support in their school environment.

This is supported by the studies of Kosciw, Greytak et al (2014) in nationwide surveys. Students reported that faculty and staff were often unresponsive or even engaging in these anti-LGBTQ victimizations as much as fellow students were. Students who reported victimization from faculty and staff, which included sexual and physical assault, reported much higher self-esteem and depression issues than those who were victimized at a lesser rate or by fellow students only (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). Faculty left few options of recourse for students, especially if they did not speak up about the victimization that would happen in their classrooms or under their watch. This study also found that students who had supportive teachers reported drastic decreases in these same issues, including a lesser extent of victimization (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014).

Students require the active and engaging participation of school staff in order to feel safe in their environments. This goes beyond simply having anti-discrimination clauses in the school rules. Adelman and Woods (2006) discuss the requirements of school curriculum with LGBTQ influences, LGBTQ focused clubs and education with teachers and all staff, as well as continued and vocal intolerance of anti-LGBTQ sentiment as used by peers. Kosciw, Greytak et al. (2014) go a step further, questioning the use of zero-tolerance policies, which often leave LGBTQ students without much recourse against consistent harassment from peers. These factors help remove the feeling of an anti-LGBTQ culture and the feeling that there is nowhere to turn for LGBTQ students who face consistent or even occasional problems at school for their gender and/or sexuality.

Transgender students face specific needs and problems that are not experienced by other students due to their gender and usually forcibly being out as transgender. Students who transition or attempt to transition while in school are not afforded the ability to hide their transgender status. This is further exasperated by faculty who treat the students different such as not being allowed to use the correct bathroom, changing room, or access other gendered areas due to their transgender status (Grant et al., 2011; Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). For transgender students, the importance of faculty support is amplified by these factors. Transgender students often face higher rates of victimization from both peers and staff, leaving them as one of the most vulnerable populations of LGBTQ youth (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). Due to higher rates of victimization from family support structures as well, it is vital that faculty and staff at schools create positive and safe environments for transgender students in regards to their gender (Grant et al., 2011).

School staff are a vital and the most important part in creating positive environments for LGBTQ students. Students learn acceptable behavior from authority figures in their lives, and teachers are one of those authority figures. Creating a positive and supportive example for students through staff and showing zero tolerance towards anti-LGBTQ sentiments creates a solid and positive experience for all students as it sets a precedence of respect and educational understanding (Adelman & Woods, 2006; Kosciw, Palmer, et al., 2013). By starting from the top and working down, LGBTQ students can create safe havens with their teachers who can give them access to resources they may require in their school careers. This is vital in creating an environment that fosters not only a good academic environment, but affects the self-esteem and mental well-being of the students as well.


School environments are where youth spend the majority of their time, not only learning, but also making friends and learning important social and cultural cues. These life lessons create a lifetime of impressions on the individual that influence not only their life choices, but their emotional and mental well-being later on in life. Without a safe and supportive as well as enriching and embracing environment, LGBTQ youth find that school creates more problems for their lives, both in and out of school, than educational possibilities.

While school can be difficult for everyone, especially with the current focus on anti-bullying measures, there is a special focus that needs to be created for LGBTQ youth. As previously discussed, LGTQ youth face severe problems not only with their peers, but with school staff as well (Kosciw, Palmer et al., 2013). This additional lack of support from school faculty and staff creates a unique element around the negative environments presented to LGBTQ youth. While non-LGBTQ youth may have the support of school staff for their situations, LGBTQ youth often do not even have this and have no way to report the harassment they feel in school since staff is often part of the problem (Adelman & Woods, 2006). Without the focus on LGBTQ youth specifically, these problems often fall through the cracks. Staff support is one of the most important factors in school safety, reported from all students, not just those who are LGBTQ (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012; Kosciw, Palmer et al., 2013).

Research into school policies is essential. School policies need to be implemented and enforced, as school policies directly impact the environment of a school, contributing to the safety of the environment. Students respond to feeling safer in environments with anti-discrimination rules, but also when teachers actively enforce these rules (Adelman & Woods, 2006). Due to the fact that teachers tend to leverage school policies against LGBTQ youth, it is important that future research looks into how school policies are being used to both support as well as harm LGBTQ students (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). Studies show how these policies can both help and harm these students, but studies do not show how the policies are being carried out or written so that they cannot be bent to harm LGBTQ youth or force them into the closet through policies such as zero tolerance and removal of all LGBTQ related attire, attitudes, and education (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014).

The lasting effects of negative school environments also disproportionately impact the futures of LGBTQ youth. The focus on higher education is important for all students but direct victimization creates problems for LGBTQ youth that are not faced by their cisgender and/or heterosexual peers. Negative school environments that are targeted at LGBTQ youth create a higher chance of no future plans for educational continuity (Kosciw, Greytak et al., 2014). While school counselors may focus on creating and helping students go to post-secondary school, negative environments make this increasingly difficult for LGBTQ youth specifically as the targeted bullying, harassment, and victimization does not end at high school (Grant et al., 2011). LGBTQ youth have unique needs such as finding schools that are accepting of them as well as supportive with measures such as gender-inclusive housing, bathroom access, and anti-discrimination rules (Biegel, 2010; Kosciw, Palmer et al., 2013).

Without focusing on the unique needs of LGBTQ youth in school, the problems that are created later in life cannot begin to be addressed. While institutionalized and societal anti-queer sentiments create high levels of mental health issues for LGBTQ people, these issues do not begin or end in a vacuum (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012; Grant et al., 2011). Students who report higher levels of in school victimization reported higher levels of self-esteem, depression, and substance abuse issues later on in life (Grant et al., 2011). This shows that the implications of negative school environments have a correlation with later issues in life. Creating supportive, accepting, and accommodating school environments affects LGBTQ youth not only in their education, but in their lives as a whole as well. School is meant to educate youth for their lives as adults, equipping them with necessary life skills in order to succeed. Without creating these environments for LGBTQ students, addressing their specific needs, schools are not fulfilling their duties to LGBTQ youth.

Future research needs to focus on what combination of supportive elements create the most beneficial environments for LGBTQ youth. Supportive school structures for LGBTQ youth also create supportive structures for cisgender and heterosexual students with more hands on staff, more supportive and informed staff, as well as an all-around more positive school environment (Adelman & Woods, 2006). This includes inclusive curriculum is important to the school environment as well, showing students support and education that is inclusive of them and their existence. Studies need to also look into educational materials for faculty and staff that can be also used for students and active programs, besides just GSAs, that can bring students and faculty together in support.

Negative school environments create problems with education as well as lasting mental health issues that last long after school ends for LGBTQ youth. Without addressing these issues not only in school environments but within students and staff, schools fail to create a positive and safe learning environment for all students. Without creating these positive environments, schools fail to create learning environments which empower students with knowledge and prepare them for their lives as adults.



Adelman, M., & Woods, K. (2006). Identification Without Intervention: Transforming the Anti-LGBTQ School Climate. Journal Of Poverty, 10(2), 5-26. doi:10.1300/J134v10n02•02

Biegel, S. (2010). The right to be out: Sexual orientation and gender identity in America’s public schools. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Cahill, S., & Cianciotto, S. (2012). Lgbt youth in America’s schools. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Grant, J. M., Mottet, L.A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., & Herman, J.L. (2011). Injustice at every turn: A report of the national transgender discrimination survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Palmer, N. A., & Boesen, M. J. (2014). The 2013 national school climate survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.

Kosciw, J. G., Palmer, N. A., Kull, R. M., & Greytak, E. A. (2013). The Effect of Negative School Climate on Academic Outcomes for LGBT Youth and the Role of In-School Supports. Journal Of School Violence, 12(1), 45-63. doi:10.1080/15388220.2012.732546

An Interview with Transgender Faith Leader Stephanie Mott

I first met Stephanie Mott in May, 2011. We were fighting for the Manhattan, Kansas commissioners to not repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance passed back in February that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes. You read that right, only three months after passing the ordinance the new Manhattan commission was working on revoking the rights of queer Manhattan residents. The anti-discrimination ordinance had made Manhattan, Kansas the second place in Kansas to add not only sexual orientation but gender identity to protected classes of citizens with Lawrence, Kansas being the first. In three short months, we saw these rights being ripped from under us.

We heard arguments from both sides, watching as ministers and fellow residents saying the protection was unnecessary because they had never seen someone discriminated on these bases. These responses came after person after person recounted tales of discrimination based on their gender and their sexual orientation, one of those people being me and another being Stephanie Mott. I remember coming down from speaking, shaking like a leaf. I was red, scared, and nervous. Stephanie hugged me and told me I had done an amazing job and handed me the card for her organization, KSTEP (Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project).

This experience of being given rights and then watching them ripped out from under you and meeting Stephanie are experiences that have changed my life and have shaped many things in the years after. They are stories I recount often as the fight for basic protections continues across the United States and across the world. Stephanie, her kindness, and her story, and her dedication are something I look to frequently as something to strive towards.

What strikes me most about Stephanie is her unwavering faith. Stephanie is a Christian transsexual woman who frequently posts about her religion and its influence on her life. She even has a book titled God Doesn’t Have a Penis, and Other Writings by a Transsexual Christian Woman. She does not let those who question her identity and its intersection with her religion get in her way. This is most evident in her Trans Faith Tour she is currently doing across the country, talking about her experiences as a Christian trans woman.

I recently interviewed Stephanie about her Trans Faith Tour, KSTEP, and several other things.

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Gaming in Color: An Interview with Director and Producer Philip Jones

“Prepare to have your assumptions and comforts challenged a bit, and remember that queer people are a part of your human experience,” Philip told me when I asked them what they wanted their non-queer viewers of Gaming in Color to take from the film. Of course the film, which focuses on the experiences of queer gamers in video games, from developers to simple fans, is meant to be about educating others. Philip wanted there to be an easy to consume resource for those who may not be able to influence every gamer they meet to understand the issues queer gamers face.

“Your gaming tendencies will probably feel a bit poked at and criticized, maybe even deconstructed in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. But that’s often how queer people feel just getting past the hurdle of even turning on a game, assumptions are made and questions are asked and you’re never allowed to just exist in a culture that is hostile or at best neutral but aloof to you.” As Philip states here, gaming is not always perfect when it comes to dealing with queer characters, let alone dealing with queer people within gaming experiences. However, not everything is negative when it comes to the intersections of identity and gaming.

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Implied and Rarely Said: Queer Sexualities and Genders in Media

Kung Jin is the name of Mortal Kombat’s first gay character. After numerous games, adaptions, and so forth, Mortal Kombat has its first gay character. However, you have to be pretty observant to catch the reference. During a flashback he is talking about the gods accepting him.

“I can’t… They won’t accept…” He says, only to have Raiden respond with They care about only what is in your heart; not whom your heart desires.” And that’s it. That sole line. It’s subtle. It’s nice. But it is far from perfect.

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Queering Religion

Religion and queer identities- often these two things are seen as conflicting forces. If you are one, you cannot be the opposite. Religion and being queer cannot exist hand-in-hand and when they do, it is often not only in conflict with the person, but within their community at large as well. Religion and queer are seen as conflict and negative, rarely as something ever positive. Even when the topic of queering religion comes up, it often comes up in the form of gay and lesbian members of the Judeo-Christian churches. Narratives focus on them and their sexuality, within the context of how they manage to reconcile their sexuality with their religion. These forces are still seen at odds as opposed to complimentary modes of support that create a whole rather than conflicting parts.

Rarely is the queering of religion spoken about as the involvement of transgender and gender non-conforming religious and spiritual people. Maybe occasionally, but not in the same vein as queer sexualities in regards to religions. Then again, this tends to be the case with anything that does not follow the Big Gay focus of marriage and assimilation.

Thus, religion as a positive force is rarely ever explored when it comes to queer identities, let alone gender. Even rarer is the exploration of how religion can help one better express their gender and their identities and relationship with their gender and their religion or spirituality. Religion is often such a negative influence that we often forget the positive that religion can do for people and communities, the help religion can provide as well as the guidance it can bring.

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Righteously Mad

This originally appeared on In Our Words Blog. The website is no longer available so I am posting this previously published piece here. It has been edited slightly to fit into my more recent words and writing style (such as an added paragraph) but 95% of the post remains the same as it was when it was posted to IOWB.

Why do trans people act so sensitive when you discuss trans identities? Why do they get so uptight and righteous when you start talking about the obviously fake trans people and not them? Why do they get so upset when you misgender someone out of spite? It’s not like you were talking about them! You’re just talking about the bad trans people who give queer people a bad name! People shouldn’t get so upset about that!

When you talk about people as a collective, you are talking about them. You are telling people it is ok to do these things as long as someone sees them as bad, wrong, or incorrect. You are telling others and setting an example of behaviors that are never OK to do to anyone. You are tone and identity policing people.

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