Say Their Names.
Say Their Names.
These are the reported transgender people who have been murdered in the United States in 2020. Most of the people above are transgender women, and mostly transgender women of color. My name is Levi Arithson and my pronouns are he/his/him. I am a transgender human. I am a genderqueer trans outlaw. I am the program manager of LGBTQ+ Equity for Denver Public Schools.
When I was asked to write something for the Transgender Week of Awareness, I was asked to share a little about myself. But. As a white, transmasculine person with financial privilege and job security I felt the need to first honor my transgender siblings lost this year. Those with less access to healthcare, support systems, job opportunities, and housing — just to name a few of the barriers and obstacles that transgender people face despite the strides for equity that have been made. It is imperative that as a district we continue to support our transgender students, families, and team members in order to break these cycles of violence.
The National Transgender Week of Awareness works to help “raise the visibility of transgender people and address issues members of the community face,” according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). In many schools and teams in our district, there are transgender students, families, and staff. Our DPS community members who identify as transgender (an umbrella term for anyone who does not identify with their gender assigned at birth) deserve equitable access to education, opportunities, safety, and inclusion. Our district is a leader in LGBTQ+ inclusion in general, and transgender inclusion in particular to this week.
This year, DPS introduced an all-gender restroom mandate directing all schools to ensure at least one single-stall, all-gender restroom. DPS updated our student record-keeping software, Infinite Campus, to include multiple gender identity options for students whose gender does not fall within traditional categories. Asking and sharing pronouns is becoming a part of our culture in DPS. Many people have been involved in this work, including our LGBTQ+ affinity group, the DPS Board of Education, and the Culture, Equity and Leadership Team. As a district we still have much work to do, and I am so honored to be driving some of the significant changes we are making in service to equity for our transgender and non-binary students (and all students).
I am proud to be transgender. My gender identity is a defining feature of my life and my work. My transition is a journey filled with euphoria and triumph, with shame and humiliation, with anger and sadness and survival and resilience. When I was a child, I did not have access to the language to describe my deeply felt sense of self. If I had known at that time that words and identities like transgender and genderqueer existed, my own existence would have made more sense to me. If I had been able to see and learn about people like me in school, I know my education would have been exponentially richer. If others had more empathy and understanding about transgender identities–at all ages–I think it would have created more inclusion and less bullying in my educational experiences. Gaining this empathy and knowledge is vital for all students, because when we make space for more people we work towards our shared core values of Equity, Integrity, and Students First. This is part of my ‘Why’ and why it is so important we continue to do this work in DPS. Find out more about National Transgender Awareness Week on the GLAAD website.