SARASOTA (WWSB) - Twenty-six transgender people in the U.S. last year were violently killed, according to the Human Rights Campaign, with many of those cases involving some type of anti-transgender bias. One of those alleged victims was from North Port.
Last September, North Port Police identified a 20-year-old shooting victim as Tyren Kinard. Kinard was shot multiple times, and the was body left in a bush on the side of the road. According to local LGBTQ advocates, Kinard was known in the LGBTQ community as Londonn Moore.
It was a case that Vanessa Nichols said she followed closely. That’s because her son, Dylan, is transgender.
Since Dylan could talk, Vanessa says her son communicated to her that he identified as male and always rejected everything female. Dylan is now 10-years-old.
About a year ago, Dylan publicly changed his name and started using he and him pronouns.
“The kids were ‘ok’,” Vanessa described. “Some of the kids pushed back by saying, ‘you’re not a real boy,’ or ‘I’m still going to call you by your real name.’”
Vanessa and Dylan lost some family members and adult friends, but overall, Vanessa says the kids at Venice Elementary School have been very accepting.
“He has age on his side, and the school did right by him,” she said.
Vanessa is worried that socially, things will change for Dylan as he gets older because already, just for being an advocate, Vanessa is attacked.
“I’m the one that experiences a lot of the bullying and a lot of the hate,” she described. “I get Facebook messages all of the time from strangers, even people I know, who blame me specifically for being an advocate.”
ALSO Youth is an organization of advocates for LGBTQ kids and teens. The team pushes to end the violence, harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Executive director, Nathan Bruemmer, described that in his research, elementary school students are usually very accepting.
“It isn’t until middle or high school when the rest of the world and the realities of the big bad world [set in] and we start to see issues," Bruemmer said.
That’s when the bullying typically starts, and depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts can come with that.
“They internalize those feelings," Bruemmer explained. “We know that the average age of kids starting to figure out crushes is about age 10, so we have to realize that our kids have a sense of identity way earlier than we think.”
Another problem LGBTQ children face is a lack of support at home.
“When we look at unaccompanied homeless youth 14-24, 40% of those kids are LGBTQ,” Bruemmer said. “It’s because of the family rejection that they end up on the street or couch surfing.”
Then there’s of course the bathroom threats.
“Teachers for sure have stopped kids from going into the bathroom where they feel safe because it’s against the rules.,” Vanessa said. “It is a huge problem. It’s a physical problem because some of them are holding in don’t go to the bathroom all day in fear of being bullied.”
Sarasota County Schools just changed their policy to support transgender students choosing what bathroom to use. Manatee County has not created any formal policy yet.
“Is manatee behind where Sarasota is? Yes,” Bruemmer said. "But last Monday we had a training as part of professional development with support staff. There’s a committee there that is looking at the needs. There are professionals that are addressing the needs. "
With all of these dangers that the LGBTQ community faces, how can the rest of the community help? First, advocates say to stop stopping the conversation. Second, educate yourself and those around you. Third, get to know people in the LGBTQ community.