Letter to Donald Trump on Transgender Guidelines


Born This Way. Photo by Callen Harty.


Dear President Trump,

I have heard reports that the White House is considering rescinding Department of Education guidelines regarding transgender rights for school districts across the United States. I am pleading with you as an adult who works with LGBT students to please leave the guidelines in place for the protection of transgender students.

I presume you are aware that violence against transgender citizens is among the highest against any minority group in this country. If not, please note the following: According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), in 2013 72% of the victims of hate violence homicides were crimes against transgender women (particularly transgender women of color). Transgender people were also almost four times as likely to suffer from police violence and transgender women were almost twice as likely to suffer sexual violence. The report did not list the number of transgender suicides, but the numbers of that are also alarming, particularly among young transgender people who not only struggle with the common issues of adolescence but the much larger issues of identity and the discrimination that follows because of that identity.

In a report by the Human Rights Campaign 2016 saw the largest number of transgender homicides ever and, again, their statistics do not consider suicide. Our group lost one of our high schoolers to suicide last year and I never want to see that happen again. To anyone, and especially young people who should just be starting on a long journey through life. Taking away the guidelines will leave school district administrators confused about what protections they can offer their transgender students and it will send a loud message to transgender youth that their lives do not matter to the administration or the American people.

Transgender lives do matter. The young man we lost to suicide was an intelligent, articulate teen leader who had incredible gifts to offer the world. We will never know what he may have accomplished with his life. The Williams Institute in a 2014 analysis of the National Transgender Discrimination Study found that 78% of those who experienced physical or sexual violence at school reported at least one suicide attempt. 57% whose families had stopped talking to or having contact with their transgender family member after they came out as trans had attempted suicide. And yes, families do stop talking to LGBT youth or sometimes kick them out and make them homeless. I have seen this happen to teens who simply wanted to be themselves. These young people do not need further obstacles put in their way or protections taken from them.

If, as reported, you are considering rescinding the guidelines I strongly urge you to reconsider. Put yourself in the shoes of a young person who has to come to terms with their own identity and then face bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence as a daily part of their lives simply for trying to live as their true selves.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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