I was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka on August 17th 1997. I have three older brothers, one of whom currently resides in Virginia. I lived in Sri Lanka for nine years and even though I miss my friends, cousins and other close relatives back home, it wasn't always the easiest for me to adjust, especially in school. Whatever that was being taught in school, I was always the one who took the longest to understand the material and I eventually ceased trying. I received the lowest grades, and I was ranked the thirtieth best, the thirtieth being the worst rank. I never even spoke my native languages, Sinhala and Tamil, when I was in Sri Lanka while everyone else around me did. I felt completely incapable of completing any task properly. I didn't engage in many hobbies either; however, I did excel in a thing or two. I was always involved in outdoor activities. In school, whenever we conducted sports meets, I was known as the fastest runner. Somehow I found a way to diminish that reputation as well. During one of my sports meets, I was participating in a race. I remember running until I was so overwhelmed by the fear of losing, I simply stopped running and froze in place. I can vividly picture the voices telling me to continue, to win the race, yet I couldn't listen. I was hindered by my lack of confidence to endeavor to win.
However I was able to start anew on September 15th 2006. A new country, a new beginning. It was the day I arrived to the United States. At the time, I didn't think about the prospect of starting anew, I was too invested in absorbing my new surroundings. I continued to fall behind in school. I found the answers to my math homework online and I completed my work without thoroughly thinking about it in depth. Through the use of after school programs during my elementary school years, I was able to gradually improve in school. The people that I've met after coming to the United States certainly contributed to my overall shift in perspective. Back in eighth grade I met my Bengali friend, Nafisa Lubaba who is still today one of my best friends. She is always available when I am in need of advice or when I need help with a class assignment. She regards everything in a profound manner, always looking at at it from her own philosophical way. Watching her view everything with such an open mind makes me want to emulate her way of thinking.
During my junior year of High School, I had the good fortune to meet a few other noteworthy people, Gina Mohamed, Maha Waheed, Akansha Lal, Bobby Singh and Kelly Pervin. Each and every one of them are capable of speaking their native language fluently. They made me realize that I needed to do the same. Even though I understand my native language Sinhala, that wasn’t enough. I needed to learn how to speak it. Recently I’ve asked my parents to start speaking to me in Sinhala and even though sometimes I reply to them in English, the important thing is, I try. “Anitaya monawa qwat, mama aaka warade keala oppo karanawa.” which means whenever people say I can’t do something, I prove them wrong. As a freshman, I was a shy kid who kept to myself, never ventured out with friends, and enjoyed working independently without ever wanting to try something new or something different.Within my junior year in High School year, I participated in a place, I never knew I would be able to engage in. I participated in the Bollywood talent show.With this new perspective towards school I was able to become the Valedictorian of Richmond Hill High School.
It is evident that the late twenty-first century witnessed women who gradually broke out of their silence. Nonetheless, women who undergo all sorts of intersectional struggles were initially ostracized by mostly white feminist groups because what they believed in were considered “trivial matters.” Eventually, they gained acceptance within the feminist groups and this contributes to the increase in diverse perspectives of struggle. At this point in time, it is pivotal to continually challenge feminist theory in the ways Emi Koyama asserts in “The Transfeminist Manifesto” (2001). According to Koyama (2001), Transfeminism can be described as a movement created by and dedicated to trans women; they believe that it is significant for all women as well as the others who have been discriminated, to cooperate with one another and create an alliance in order to acquire liberation.
A resource guide called, “Peeing in Peace” by the Transgender Law Center (2005) shows potential transgender activists several ways that transgender people as well as others who are shunned, react to situations where they are verbally and physically harassed in the restrooms. Due to a plethora of complaints that the Transgender Law Center receive from transgender peoples experiencing discrimination in the bathrooms, The Safe Bathroom Access Campaign (SBAC) was created to offer solutions to the problems transgender people undergo, along with their family and friends that attempt to use public restrooms. The first chapter of the guide gives a short background about people who underwent similar, bathroom related discrimination. For instance, the United States once separated public bathrooms based on race.“White” bathrooms were considered far more sanitary and convenient while the “colored” bathrooms were far from it. It also addresses the legal rights and problems that young kids undergo due to discrimination in a public setting. The second chapter discusses the many ways in which transgender people can be prepared to face perplexed and impolite reactions by others due to their uncommon gender representations. Some of the strategies provided include learning the gender code, exhibiting confidence, becoming invisible, having a friend with you, dealing with a child’s remarks, becoming assertive, and educating others who question their presence in the bathrooms. The third chapter outlines the ways in which change can be initiated.
One of the suggestions made was, “protecting transgender people in bathrooms is to pass laws, regulations, or policies that require that people be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.” I agree with this regulation because this recommendation would indeed allow transgender people to feel accepted and proud of who they are rather than having to avoid public restrooms due to the prickling opinions of others. In part C of chapter three, the reading provides steps to alter individual bathrooms to help people undergoing discrimination in public bathrooms: “Allies are people who will support you in your attempts to create change to the bathroom. Some allies will be people who also experience trouble using the bathroom(s) in question or who really care about the issue of bathroom safety. These are people who might be good “core allies” who become part of a small team working together on this issue…” This step was quite compelling because it reminded me of several gender theorists such as Susan Muaddi Darraj and Gloria Anzaldúa who believe that women with intersecting struggles must come together to advocate for change. Having allies can make the issue recognized.
Along with the issue of the transgender peoples being bullied within public restrooms, the transgender youth who attend educational facilities also undergo discrimination. Transgender youth experience discrimination at a very young age and as a result, they have a hard time facing people and their surroundings around them. In “Developing Allies to Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Youth: Training for counselors and Educators”, Kim Case and S. Colton Meier (2012) discuss the ways in which educators and counselors can guide transgender youth in order to prevent them from being bullied, committing suicide and dropping out of school: “ Beginning in middle school, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are at risk for suicidal ideation and attempts, depression, anxiety, nonsuicidal self-injury, and being victimized by peers in person or online. Not surprisingly, they feel less safe in school and have higher levels of unexcused absences and dropout rates, less of a sense of school belongingness, more academic difficulties, and fewer plans to attend college than their non-LGBT peers due to harassment.” It’s distressing to know that transgender people, as well as other members of the LGBTQ community, are impeded from educating themselves due to mere individuals. Educators are responsible for hindering transgender acceptance as well. According to the article, transgender youth have been ignored by educators when they asked for help who often times blamed the victims for diverging from gender norms. This makes it seem like the harassment of the LGBT community is accepted by professional leaders. Also, teachers have ridiculed them by telling them to conform with their designated sexual orientation and using their birth names rather than their new names.
When professional leaders are educated about the matter of transgender people, the students enrolling in the schools can also be educated about it where teachers “...provide ideas and resources to include transgender content in college classes, direct educators to eliminate biased language, prepare students to ask appropriate questions of transgender guest speakers, and honor the name and pronoun preferences of transgender students. Further, counselors and educators should be prepared to answer or redirect questions, especially those that are ‘eroticizing or voyeuristic’” This shows that acceptance and understanding of transgender people is a chain reaction; in this context when professionals are exposed to ways in which transgender people should be acknowledged, they ultimately teach their students about respecting and understanding them as well.
Another effective way of introducing transgender studies to educational leaders could be by conducting workshops. These sessions are given to k-12 teachers, counselors, psychologists and other professional leaders. The educators who entered these three-hour sessions were either unaware of transgender children or knew very little about them. Judith Butler emphasizes the need for people to be aware of the structured ideologies implemented on the people living within various communities as well as the need for intersectional struggles to be represented. This is similar to the motive of the workshops to educate others about the transgender groups. As Emi Koyama (2001) explains in “The Transfeminist Manifesto”, what right do we have to define others? It is essential for us all to resist identity formation solely based on structured, oppressive ideologies. Identities aren’t intrinsic but rather built over time.
Case, K., & Meier, S. (2012). Developing Allies to Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Youth: Training for counselors and Educators”, Kim Case and S. Colton Meier (2012).
Koyama, E. (2001). The Transfeminist Manifesto.
Peeing in peace: A resource guide for transgender activists and allies. (2005). San Francisco, CA: Transgender Law Center.