On Saturday night, I attended my first Tri-State Alliance meeting. For lack of better words, it's was eye-opening. 

First, I met several members of the LGBT youth community between Evansville and Owensboro and each of their stories were inspirational.

By the time I left, I was moved to tears by each of their stories. I sat in my car for several minutes before driving off...trying to piece together how a child's mother could tell their son they're wrong for feeling the way they do. Or, trying to understand why a teacher wouldn't allow a student to be referred to as the gender they prefer.

Many of them have faced an incredible amount of ridicule and ignorance from the public, their families, and their school corporations. Hearing the struggles some of these children have gone through was emotionally draining.

The fact is, these kids fear going to school above all. This was a common theme among each of their stories - they didn't feel comfortable or respected at their school. They might not be able to use the bathroom they prefer or be called by the name they'd like. But why? Well, because there isn't a law or initiative protecting transgender youth from this form of "outing." Outing is a term that refers to what happens when a transgender individual is referred to by their birth sex/name and not their preferred one.

There are many loopholes in the system that allow teachers and staff to continue calling a child the wrong name or assigning them to roles according to their birth sex. However, this isn't the case for everyone.

For example, one of the attendees at the meeting shared their story of how they had a choir teacher that passed around a paper at the beginning of the semester that allowed students to specify their preferred gender and how they'd like to be addressed. It's really that simple. And if one teacher can do that, every teacher can.

Now, obviously there are certain laws and rules teachers and staff must obey. However, the students aren't asking their teacher's to break the law, but more-so respect their personal decision. I can't imagine it being that hard for a teacher to refer to a person as a "him" instead of a "her", if that's what the student prefers.

When I asked how I could help, each of them told me to continue to normalize terms, stories, and conversations about the LGBT community. By talking about it, we normalize it. By normalizing it, we make each person feel a little bit more comfortable in their community.

While we have taken huge leaps forward in recent years, we still have many mountains to climb.

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