Published 5:00 AM EDT Oct 26, 2018
I haven't had the most common middle or high school experience.
In the middle of eighth grade, shortly before Christmas, I did one of the hardest things of my life. I shared something very personal with friends, family, and classmates. I told them that I am transgender.
When I was born, the doctors thought I was a girl and, obviously, that's how my parents raised me. But I always knew that wasn't quite right, and I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. In middle school, I realized that I am transgender, and I sought out support from my parents. After conversations with them and others that we trust, I transitioned and now I live as the young man I knew I was inside.
After that, I played a public role in the fight to pass transgender protections in my home state of Massachusetts, and I risked a lot. I encountered mixed reactions from friends, classmates, and teachers. Initially, my school required me to use a gender-neutral bathroom instead of the boy's bathroom. This drew attention and I lost my best friend and was targeted by bullies. But I made a difference.
I met with lawmakers in defense of a bill that protects the rights of all transgender people by banning gender identity discrimination in public spaces. The judiciary chairman cited my story when questioning opponents of the bill, demanding to know which restroom they thought kids like me should use in places like restaurants, stores, and hotels. I was able to give a face and a name to an important issue.
The protections successfully passed and were signed into law in 2016, and it meant the world to me and my family. It made me feel as though my home state has my back.
When the federal level fails, states need to lead
Now I'm 16, getting ready for the SAT and preparing for college applications and essays. I'm more comfortable and confident than ever before. I have thrived in school and in extracurricular activities. But the fight is not over. The Trump administration may release a memo that would undermine federal civil rights protections for transgender people — making state protections are more important than ever.
And the law I worked to help pass in my home state — that made such an impact on me and allowed me the same safety and dignity as everyone else — is now at risk and will be before voters on Election Day. The thought of these protections being repealed is incomprehensible to me.
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If these protections aren't upheld, I'm scared of being targeted again. Will I be harassed at the mall or denied entry to the movies with my friends? These are fears that transgender people have everyday. I've tried to maintain my courage throughout this journey. But I'm scared again. All I want is to be protected and respected — just like any other teenager.
Anti-transgender activists spread fear to mislead voters, claiming that protecting people like me empowers criminals in restrooms. If people believe that, it’s me who will pay the price. If on the morning after Election Day, voters fail to uphold this law, I worry I will be in the same predicament as I was years ago, scared of harassment, and living in a state that doesn’t support me. Despite possible rollbacks at the federal level, I hope that using fear to restrict what I regard as my basic civil rights is not what my home is made of.
Discrimination is not welcome here
Ever since I began living as my authentic self, the values my parents instilled in me haven’t changed. My parents gave me a strong upbringing. I value safety, privacy, and treating others as I’d want to be treated. My own sense of modesty hasn’t changed — and for others to assert that treating people like me with respect will empower criminals, is upsetting.
This law isn't about criminals. It's about people like me.
I'm not even old enough to vote on this ballot question that will determine my future. But voters have a chance to declare: Discrimination is not welcome. I hope the nation will hear from kids like me and understand that transgender people simply want to build their lives and thrive in our communities, just like everyone else. That's what I want myself, and for transgender kids like me who I've met through this journey.
More simply: I want to focus on getting my driver’s license and using the car to take my girlfriend to the movies. I am a teenager who wants the opportunity to actually be one, without living my life in fear.
What’s happening in the White House is scary. I hope as people, we can send a different message. I hope my neighbors in Massachusetts say yes to upholding transgender rights in this historic election.
Brandon Adams is a 16-year-old senior at Norfolk County Agricultural High School and a transgender teenager from Framingham, Massachusetts.