#VoicesOfMarion: Salem Organa
While broader strides are being made toward protecting the rights of transgender students, counties across Florida continue to move backwards. The Marion County School Board recently passed a policy that prevents transgender students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. In response, over 80 people from throughout Marion County gathered at a town hall to support each other, brainstorm next steps, and share their stories. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of their letters to the School Board to help you get to know the #VoicesofMarion, the people whose lives and loved ones have been intimately affected by this damaging and discriminatory policy. Even in the face of adversity and oppression, the strength of the LGBTQ and ally community is audible through their words. The #VoicesofMarion refuse to be silenced.
Salem Organa is a nonbinary transgender person and a lifetime resident of Marion County. Their work with local transgender advocacy group Trans Ocala and own personal insight makes them a poignant voice regarding the issue of discrimination on the basis of gender expression. Read how Salem discusses the impact the new policy is having on transgender students, explores the consequences of teaching shame in academic environments, and bids the School Board to let students explore their own identities without fear.
Dear Marion County School Board,
My name is Salem Organa and I’m with Trans Ocala. I am a nonbinary trans person and have lived in Ocala all 24 years of my life. I went to Lake Weir High School and MTI; graduated in 2010. At the time, I did not know I was nonbinary. I did not have that concept in my lexicon. I found myself uncomfortable with the concept of “woman,” frustrated, angry. That frustration, and the way I lashed out at my peers because I had nobody around me to connect with over what I was experiencing? It distracted me from my education. I felt isolated by the school system that wouldn’t even allow a Gay-Straight Alliance. My studies suffered for it. I, personally, suffered for it.
Your transgender students are coming to understand themselves in a way that you can’t grasp. It’s okay to not understand things. There are wonderful mysteries in life that aren’t necessarily meant for you to experience. What I don’t think is particularly wonderful is forcing kids who are facing bullying, social exclusion, and in some very unfortunate cases a lack of support at home, into uncomfortable and dangerous situations at school. Where this community sends its children to learn academic subjects, you will also be teaching shame.
Gender inspection measures create an atmosphere where all children must adhere to a rigid set of rules for performing gender when we are already punishing some children for their gender presentation. We are seeing cisgender women – non-transgender, for those not tuned in to the lingo – being dragged out of restrooms by police where these measures are established. What kind of messy situation are we going to create by crafting an atmosphere where anyone who YOU think looks out of place is going to have their identity inspected? Do you understand what that will entail? How do you plan on inspecting a child’s identity if they challenge you? Whom does this humiliation benefit?
Let trans kids figure out what facilities they belong in. I think they can inspect their own identities just fine. Other school districts are doing so without major incident. I think we can manage to do the same.