A Syracuse-based task force is mobilizing the public to raise awareness for one of the most highly discriminated groups in the country: transgender people. These meetings, which began Tuesday at All Saints Parish in Syracuse, are a wake-up call, highlighting the inequalities most transgender individuals face, said Vince Sgambati, a member of the task force.
“We want to highlight the lives and experiences of transgender folks. This is part of a three or four year history of working on these issues, in that especially right now we're seeing that coming up more and more in the media and political issues. And we want to be part of moving that forward,” Sgambati said.
Parents of transgender people shared their experiences with raising a transgender child at today's panel discussion. One mother shared her struggles with understanding her child, a challenge for many parents at the panel discussion.
“Whatever was going on, I was doing my best to figure it out. And I didn't figure it out. But we gave it some names. We thought it was ADD. We eventually landed on Asperger's, that worked pretty well. But I had no idea that it was transgender until she told me,” one mother said.
People often fail to realize that someone they know is transgender, which is why it can be such a difficult issue to face, many at the panel pointed out.
Some parents had more shocking stories to tell. Another mother discussed the abuse that many transgender folks suffer.
“My son-in-law – his parents are fundamentalist Christians and he was raised in a school that was fundamentalist Christian – he was beat by a two-by-four on a daily basis,” she said. “So, that church and that Christianity is the abuser.”
Parents said mental and physical abuse occurs far too often. But some children have found support. For example, The Q Center Syracuse has become a meeting place and a safe haven for many transgender youth. One father said going to The Q Center was the best thing for his son.
“The first time we went there we walked in (I went in with him) and he had the biggest grin on his face. It was like instant ear-to-ear grin because for the first time he was in a place where everybody was just like him,” he said.
The task force is trying to get more support for transgender youth. The next discussion will be held March 4 at the All Saints Parish Bishop Harrison Center.