Wednesday May 09 2012
Making it easier for a Lincoln resident
By: Carol Feineman, Editor
I hope Ariel Hawkins? life immediately improves. Since making public a plan to transition from male to female last July, she is not having an easy time. The Lincoln 19-year-old can?t find a job and she has lost most of her friends. She also doesn?t have the money needed to pay for male-to-female sex reassignment surgery. She said that her mother had a hard time accepting her decision to transition. Since the age of 5, Ariel did not feel right being a male. Fearing repercussions from friends and teachers, Ariel said that she waited until after high school before transitioning genders. Ariel told The News Messenger that she looks forward to living life as the female she should have been since birth, living life stress-free and ?internally happy.? Unfortunately, it?s not going to be easy for Ariel, even though it has been almost a year since her public announcement. That?s according to Rachael Hudson of the Gender Health Center in Sacramento. Hudson knows first-hand; she transitioned eight years ago at age 36. She lost all but one of her friends; Hudson didn?t understand why in junior and high school she was called ?sissy? and ?faggot? by peers. ?It is going to be hard. Stats show that the suicide rate in young people (up to age 24) is 50 percent,? Hudson said. ?The ones who get kicked out of their home and can?t be themselves. You could risk losing your child forever if you don?t support them.? The support from one friend or family member, according to Hudson, ?can make the difference between life and death.? The Gender Health Center opened in 2010 and offers counseling/therapy services to those ?coming out and/or beginning or in the transition process in a safe, supportive and welcoming environment,? according to its website. ?There are a lot of social changes that happen. That?s why we have counseling,? Hudson said. ?People pick up different clues for gender roles. For instance, women are supposed to be submissive, quiet. If they?re not quiet, someone might tell them that?s not ladylike. Society places gender roles (boys do this, girls do that). If you don?t do that, you get teasing.? The teasing can quickly escalate into deadly attacks. ?We have a Transgender Day of Remembrance,? Hudson said. ?We remember how many were killed worldwide (for being transgender). A couple of years ago, 119 killed were documented worldwide and there are probably more that weren?t reported. Several surprisingly happened in San Francisco where you?d think it wouldn?t happen, the Midwest.? And it possibly happened in Sacramento. The body of transgender Ruby Molina was found along the American River in Sacramento. The Sutter Gender Identity Support Group in Sacramento, on its website, called Molina?s death a result ?of ignorance and intolerance.? Hudson has a simple solution for how the public can help make life easier for individuals like Ariel. ?Basically, it?s a real easy problem. Let people be themselves,? Hudson said. ?It doesn?t matter if someone is being themselves and not hurting themselves. Why should it matter if it makes them happy?? What would help Ariel, she told The News Messenger, is to call her by that name and to use the right pronoun when describing her. ?For schools, I think policies are a good thing,? Hudson said. ?When it comes to a kid who says to a teacher, ?I want to be called this name? and the teacher doesn?t think it?s appropriate, just acknowledge the kid?s name preference.? What can we do as a community to keep Ariel and other transgender individuals from feeling like outcasts? Hudson has three suggestions: Let them be themselves, ask them what they want and then support them. In addition, learn more about transgender issues by going to events such as the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance held in November and checking the websites of thegenderhealthcenter.org and sacgender.org. Parents who have a child questioning gender identity can also find a support group, Hudson recommended. ?Be supportive of your child and let them tell you what they need,? Hudson said. Ariel needs the help of Lincoln residents. Because, as Hudson said, ?It?s not ever going to be easy. There?s always going to be some danger to transgenders in today?s world.? The least we can do is to give Ariel the respect we give everybody else. One?s sexual orientation doesn?t make them into a bad person.