I was about to publish my next TransParenting 101 lesson and I came across the story of young Lori Beynon. This is a story that starts out as one of those feel good news stories we all love to share online. Lori is a transgender teenager in Britain. In a wave of acceptance and love Lori became Britain’s first transgender prom queen! This heartwarming tale took a heartbreaking turn. Vile words and abuse in the wake of her moment to shine broke her. A 16 year old girl has been a victim of terrorism and we call it bullying. A teenager is terrorized by trolls and all we can do is read about it.
High school is what we call secondary school on this side of the pond. When I was in high school I was involved in a variety of clubs and activities, but the two things that defined me were being in theater and the photographer of the school paper. Theater put me in the side of the nerds and geeks. Being the photographer of the school paper had me as the invisible witness of every group. I was everywhere documenting this moment in time while editing it dishonestly. We were tribal critters that based our identities on which clique we were a part of. Generally speaking, we were extremely cruel to other tribes for no good reason.
The teacher that was in charge of the school paper always complimented me on my ability to bring out the best smiles in people. What he did not know is how many rolls of film I would go through before giving him my shot with a “proper” smile. Knowing my own pain, I could tell when a smile did not reach the eyes. Proof sheet after proof sheet I would look through. I created the illusion that high school was a happy go lucky time full of joy and growth experiences while the honesty of our hurts hit the cutting room floor. I stood witness to their pain and that window into their soul gave me a silent compassion that I never expressed to my classmates in other cliques.
My generation existed in high school during the 80’s. We covered up important matters underneath the image empire, great music, colorful clothes, and enough hairspray to widen the hole in the ozone layer. Many of us would grow up to continue that denial in our parenting and minimize bullying. Bullying needs to be called what it is: Torture. Physical and Emotional trauma that can lead to lifetime of pain and even post traumatic stress disorder.In the article about Lori we learn, “Lori Beynon was bombarded with hate messages branding her “ugly” and a “freak” who should be “killed with fire.” This, my friends, is modern bullying. Thousands upon thousands of messages from people you don’t even know. Pictures of you instantly replicated online with horrible captions. Words like freak and declarations that you should be killed with fire are often defending by the religious out of fear that they will lose their right to speak their convictions. If their conviction is assault and torture of a minor, they should not be accorded that right.
I sometimes feel like I live in one of those dystopian novels. We live in a world where viable accusations against a child molestor did not affect his campaign one bit. Just this last Sunday, a pastor who admits to raping a teenage girl when he was a youth pastor got a standing ovation. Multiple schools are facing multiple trials over bathroom and locker room access. Transgender teenagers, in some cases, have been forced to wear special wristbands to identify the child as transgender.
Prom queen, valedictorian, and other awards are something that only one student per year gets to be in a given school. These are moments in time that should be cherished. Moments to be celebrated with your classmates and families. This is not something for a hate filled world to intrude upon and make murderous commentary about. But that is the world we live in.
The problem is, it is no longer just teenagers bullying teens, adults have joined the cacophony of this sick chorus. One of those adults that hurts children online with words I will see at my 30th class reunion this fall. We will sit in the same room and there are two things that will keep me from calling her out in the public forum:
- My son and I choose justice over revenge.
- I remember her sad eyes on proof sheets. They are still sad.
I have no conclusions. There are no lessons today. I just have a deep sadness and anger that my son, Lori, and countless other children I know have to defend their existence and have a microscope placed on them by adults without cause and without compassion.
In closing, it also angers me that these same people who torture children complain when they are called cisgender, when they are told they have no right to hurt children, and they put out false science and false facts about my child. You don’t get to play the victim. You have no right to say you are facing oppression for your conviction. Monsters don’t get to complain about their prey.
Lori is a prom queen. It’s an amazing moment. Good on her and her classmates!