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Although visibility has come far in the trans and gender non-conforming community, it is important that we keep our youth in mind.

Navigating my gender identity as a transgender woman has been an arduous yet fulfilling journey. I grew up during a time when trans visibility wasn’t gaining the traction that we see today. As a young child, growing up in a Southern Baptist family in North Carolina, I was always seen as the black sheep or “the one who stood out”. I loved to wear my grandmother’s high heels and I would wear towels on my head to mimic long, flowing hair. I was mocked and ridiculed in school when all the boys went through puberty, and I was the kid whose voice remained one octave higher than what was preferred. I was called every kind of homophobic slur you can think of, and often I didn’t feel comfortable expressing myself as I felt too alienated. In 2017, following the backlash behind Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Channel 4 interview, Laverne Cox took to twitter, and had this to say: “I was talking to my twin brother today about whether he believes I had male privilege growing up. I was a very feminine child though I was assigned male at birth. My gender was constantly policed. I was told I acted like a girl and was bullied and shamed for that. My femininity did not make me feel privileged.” Laverne went on to say: “So though I was assigned male at birth I would contend that I did not enjoy male privilege prior to my transition. Patriarchy and cissexism punished my femininity and gender nonconformity.” Many transgender men, women and non binary people alike, can relate to having felt punished growing up for not sticking to the status quo of the gender binary, because we were anything but cisgender, even if we did not have the language to understand it. We all know the challenges that come with childhood, as youth navigate school life, peer pressure and puberty, and growing up to find their place in the world. Adding on the layer of being TGNC (transgender/gender non-conforming), reveals a harsh reality. A survey conducted by GLSEN, reveals 65% of transgender students feel unsafe at school, in addition to facing verbal and physical harassment regarding their gender identity. According to The Williams Institute, an estimated 150,000 youth identify as transgender or gender non-conforming (TGNC), making the highest percentage of individuals in the United States who identify as TGNC. These statistics however, underrepresent the vast majority of youth who are unreported and those who have not come out yet.

In choosing to even suggest censoring certain terms, the federal government only continues its long tradition of wielding the narrative to its pleasure, with dangerous consequences for the rest of us.

Recent media reports cited an alleged directive by the US administration to prohibit the use of seven words in documents related to the 2019 budget at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a prominent US health agency. However, follow-up reporting and statements from HHS officials refuted the claim, referring to initial media reports as a “mischaracterization”. Unnamed officials have also allegedly asserted that the words were an internal guidance meant to aid in securing 2019 budget approval from Congress. Confusing and complex as the news may be however, many remain alarmed regarding the “banned word” list, which includes the words: “entitlement,” “science-based,” “fetus,” “transgender” “vulnerable,” “diversity,” and “evidence-based”. Indeed the case does remain that officials from the Federal Executive at the very least suggested that certain words be avoided in the critical budget process, a move that could have policy implications down the road. Following news reports, analysis actually shows that the 2018 budget documents already show a significant drop in the seven words “banned words”. In truth this perhaps subtle control of the narrative has always been an integral tradition in the country. The United States and its sub-national governments and local agents have a long history in employing censorship or censorship-like policies as staunch defenders and active perpetrators of the oppression of marginalized peoples. For example, direct action was taken to suppress abolitionist pamphlets and literature by local postmasters, an action the federal Postmaster General ruled in 1835 he would not prevent nor condemn. Later on the legal the system would then be weaponized to persecute those who voiced views unsupported by the government, such as radical leftists and communists through the Smith Act and Smith Act Trials of 1949. And the Trump administration has shown itself to be actively committed to continuing this legacy. Even within its own government, the administration has attempted other types of censorship-like policies as well. Earlier this year scientists receiving grants from the Department of Energy reported being asked to remove mentions of “climate change” from their work. Later, analyses found that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had removed dozens of climate-related resources, although the EPA claims they have simply been archived.

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