What do you when the bully in a school is the teacher? What impact does it have on a child’s life when those he thought were there to protect him, turn out to be the biggest threat?
J.D.’s mom, Shawna DiCintio, recalls J.D. as a happy, carefree kid, an up-and-coming advocate for youth, a leader determined to bring acceptance and awareness to LGBTQI youth. She was a competitive cheerleader who trained 12 hours a week and dreamed of going to worlds. Although J.D., then openly gay, was bullied a lot, he still had a sense of safe adults—and teachers—and he still believed in a life of possibility. He even made this video for It Gets Better.
Then came the high school bullying—from teachers. Teachers.
J.D. was sitting on the bleachers at his high school assembly when he pointed to a guy across the gym and said to his friend, “He’s cute.” The man in front of them turned around and said, “Shut up,” according to The Oregonian, and then threatened to kill them and throw them both down the stairs. Twice. The man turned out to be a teacher. A teacher made this death threat, the newspaper reports.
The two students complained and the teacher was put on administrative leave. But the teacher was returned to his position after other students rallied in support, saying this teacher was “a dedicated teacher known for sarcasm.” Support turned into threats against J.D., the newspaper reports, with tweets like, “Don’t worry about [teacher’s name], I’ll do him a favor and throw you down a flight of stairs myself. Drama queen.” And “I hope J.D. really does fall down the stairs Monday.”
J.D. was out as a gay male at the time but has since come out as transgender—which only increased the bullying.
Shawna talks about the ongoing bullying and abuse J.D. suffered, including specific incidents reported in The Oregonian:
- Another teacher told D. “to stop being a diva and a priss.”
- The school’s dean of students refused to help the student while he was being verbally and physically assaulted in the lunchroom.
- District officials took some action but did not do enough and instead caused D. “emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, stress and fear.”
J.D. had to leave the school and now suffers from PTSD, fear of leaving the house, and a whole host of fears related to the ongoing abuse.
Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you suffer from PTSD and panic attacks if you were threatened and attacked by teachers and school administrators and masses of students? Yes, you would. So would I. And if this were your child, wouldn’t you do anything in your power to protect them? You would. So would I.
I learned about J.D. only because Shawna is in our private Facebook group for moms (and gave me permission to share), but J.D. is far from alone. These horror stories are more common than you might think for trans and other LGBTQI students.
If you are a parent, and would like information about our private Facebook support groups, please email us at email@example.com. Subject line: SUPPORT GROUPS
In the debate about transgender rights in schools and in bathrooms, the talk is always about protecting the children. So I ask you… Who do you think needs protection here: LGBTQI people like J.D.? Or the school community that wishes to silence LGBTQI people like J.D?
Who needed more protection in the 1400’s: young girls called witches or those who want to silence and burn those girls at the stake? Who needed more protection in the 1800’s: left-handed students who were called demon-possessed by the church, or those who wanted to stop left-handedness? Who needed more protection during the Civil Rights era: blacks being beaten and murdered or a society that believes blacks are subhuman and should be beaten and murdered? Who needs more protection: Jews or people who want to exterminate Jews? Do you see where this goes?
When a transgender person walks into a public restroom, THEY are the most vulnerable person in the room.
There are always people we don’t understand. There are people whose story we don’t know. But that does not mean that we get to terrorize those people. A civilized society is obligated to protect people who are powerless to protect themselves.
The role of the government is to protect and defend its citizens.
The role of Christians is to feed, clothe, shelter, protect and defend “the least powerful of these.”
Humanity requires us to support and protect those who are at risk, who are being excluded, who are being dehumanized.
Not to protect them is subhuman.
You may not understand being transgender at all… or gay, lesbians, bisexual. You may even be afraid because now your understanding of male/female feels at risk. That’s okay!
What we cannot do, what we dare not do is dehumanize those we don’t understand, or are afraid of: not lefthanders, not people of color, not foreigners, not transgender.
Nothing—not government, not church, not God—gives any of us the right to treat humans as less than human.
In all these years that trans people have used the restroom of their choice—unbeknownst to you and me—they have not targeted people for assault, they have only been the target of assault. I’m not afraid trans people going to somehow derail our otherwise moral and upright society. Seems like the derailing is happening just fine through hate, and condemnation and rejection.
How is J.D. doing now? First, she is Candace! <3 I spoke with Shawna about her. “I miss that happy-go-lucky kid. Everyday now is triage, just trying to overcome the obstacles of each day. Moments and hours fluctuate between “I can do this,” to fear and anxiety, to “I am done.” I answer each phone call, but I never know is this going to be a good call or a bad one. I so wish people would see how horrible and life-altering bullying is.”
Now she watches with grief as more protection of trans people is rescinded on local and national levels. “What will become of her—and others like her? Her K-12 is almost done, but someone will always be out there rejecting, intruding, and causing her and the LGBTQ community pain and resistance. I pray and try to understand, but I question my faith in humanity daily. The rescinding of protection is much more than bathroom equality—it’s much deeper than that. Thank you for blogging about my daughter’s experiences—I hope that for someone to see/listen/read her story will help them, but it also helps me and it helps her realize that what she has gone through is wrong and someone else thinks so too.”
I want to flood my inbox with love for Candice.
If you would like to send some love, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line, “CANDICE.” (I did NOT tell Shawna I’m asking this! I want it to be a surprise.)
A transgender person is just a person. Another human being. Nothing to fear. But these horrors that happened to Candice are fearsome, and no one deserves it, least of all children.
If you do not know any trans people, I encourage you to get to know someone. Go to a PFLAG meeting. Ask around. You can simply say, “I would like to understand trans people better. Can you tell me a little about yourself?”
Be respectful and just be a decent human being, and you too will find these are just regular people. You may find that they are more like you than you expected.
Above all else, love.
Here are some links you might find helpful…
We have comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church and community; and helping those in the faith community be fully inclusive. Please just click here. 🙂