Transgender athlete Lia Thomas has been the subject of much discussion over the course of the past month. It seems that every time a trans athlete competes in a manner that validates their identity, there is bound to be backlash. Being in the public eye in such a way paints a target; there are still elements of society that are struggling to accept the existence of trans people.
Concurrently, there’s a vocal group of individuals who view being transgender as an excuse to deadname and use the wrong pronouns. To be clear, just because you don’t like a trans person doesn’t mean you get to decide what their identity is. That’s something only they can determine for themselves.
Thomas has made spoken out about what it means to be in the spotlight
“I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they’re not alone,” Thomas said in a Sports Illustrated interview.
With the spotlight focused on her, Thomas has had to endure deadnaming and incorrect pronoun usage from various different sources. However, the spotlight’s focus has allowed for a whole new group of trans youth to see a trans athlete compete at one of the highest levels in this country. The importance of that cannot be ignored.
Being able to highlight transgender people matters, especially when considering the erasure of queer existence from history. Transgender youths deserve to come of age with the understanding that they are not alone in this world, with regard to the relationship they have with their bodies and their identities.
Furthermore, trans youths deserve to have access to the necessary vocabulary that will properly convey what it is that they are feeling and who it is that they are.
I am a cis man and I recognize that my perspective is limited. My understanding of trans issues has been shaped by my experiences with friends and loved ones. Because of them, I have a degree of understanding as to what it means to be transgender and gender-nonconforming.
For one of the people closest to me, discussions we had involving gender identity helped them realize their own identity. It all started when I explained that a mutual friend of ours was using they/them pronouns. I further explained that this friend felt more comfortable identifying as neither a man nor a woman. At this point, something clicked in the person I was telling all this to.
Currently, the person I had this conversation with has spent some time determining their gender identity for themselves. Had it not been for the group of friends that they surrounded themselves with in recent years, it would have taken this person longer to reach the current point in which they are in.
Through exposure to different people with similar experiences regarding their gender identity, this person was able to find an identity that suited them comfortably. They were able to find a group of people that understood what one another was going through, and they were able to help one another understand a crucial part of their identity. Through their interactions, they were able to share with one another the definitions for identities such as genderfluid or nonbinary.
To be able to look into a crowd and see someone you can connect with is such an important thing. The history of queer folk has long been neglected, to the point where parts of that history have been lost to time.
To be able to find a person who understands why you feel uncomfortable in your own body has to be an incredibly important moment. In that instance, you are not alone. There is someone else who knows what that’s like. More than that, they are older and they have wisdom to share. In that moment that you hear the word “transgender” and the definition that accompanies it, everything starts to make a bit more sense.
If you want to support LGBTQ youths at risk of suicide, please consider supporting the Trevor Project. Alongside this, pay attention to the candidates running for office and their stance on queer issues. Lastly, if there is a trans person in your life, let them know that you love them. Regardless of how they identify, they deserve to feel supported and uplifted.