Imagine a world where choice and identity is respected. A world where everyone has their own set of beliefs, and even if someone did not believe in your way of doing things they whole-heartedly respect it, a world free of bullying and discrimination.
Contrary to many individuals’ beliefs on whether or not Bruce Jenner also known as Kaitlyn Jenner should have won the 2015 Arthur Ashe Courage Award, being a public transgender figure is a great act of courage.
Andre Bridges, a Florida A&M University fourth-year elementary education and sociology student from Washington, D.C. believes you should not change your gender.
“First and foremost, I do believe that if you are born a man or you are born a woman that’s what you are supposed to be. That is God’s gift to you. You have no right to actually alter that. “
Yet Bridges believes that being a public transgender figure is a courageous act against societies norms.
“However, with Bruce Jenner receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, I feel that is a courageous act. It took a lot of personal courage from him to be open to letting the whole nation know about his private life. A lot of people try to remain behind the scenes because they are unaware of how to embrace themselves,” Bridges added.
According to USA Today, “transgenders make up 41 percent of those who try to commit suicide at some point of their lives, compared to the 4.6 percent of the general public.”
But why is that?
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality, “more than half of transgender and gender non-conforming people were bullied, harassed or assaulted in school because of their gender identity.”
Bullying at the hands of those who do not agree with transgender and non-gender conforming beliefs is a major influence in suicide attempts, substance abuse and depression amongst the transgender community.
M.C Lampe is a high school freshman who could no longer take the homophobic bullying by his peers. According to USA TODAY, Lampe said, “I can not take one more classmate refusing to sit at a nearby desk or change clothes within eyes view in gym.” Lampe vowed “If someone else says something, I’m done.”
Someone did say something, and in an attempt to commit suicide Lampe went to the high school bathroom and slit both wrists.
Lampe’s case is one of many stories of transgenders and the conflicts they face in society.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task force published anonymous statements from transgender individuals.
“My suicide attempt had a lot to do with the fact that I felt hopeless and alone in regards to my gender identity.”
While another says, ”I was harassed in public during high school, rocks thrown at me in the parking lot of high school, harassed in restaurants, drug-seeking behavior, suicide attempt, nothing about my gender identity is a conscious choice — this is the way I came out.”
As human beings we do not choose the nucleotides that make up the genetic code of our DNA. Likewise, transgender and gender conforming people do not choose their sexuality or the way they choose to express themselves as people.
The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines courage as the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. By definition the adjective moral means concerning or relating to what is right or wrong in human behavior by most people.
When you look in the mirror do you fear your reflection? Are you a danger to yourself or society? Is it difficult to venture out and explore the world because the chances of people not accepting you are high?
Well transgenders face those risks everyday.
But not everyone sees Jenner’s award as courageous.
Michael Thomas, a Florida A&M University fourth year sociology student from Ocala, Fla., finds Jenner receiving the courage award disheartening.
“I’m honestly against it. Looking at the generation behind us I find it disheartening that this is something that is getting encouraged through our media especially in the field of sports,” said Thomas. “When it comes to athletics it’s a male dominated sport. It throws off younger generations, getting them confused about what is really right and wrong.”