Transgender Student Rights In Focus

By Austin Chavez
UJW Staff Writer

For many adolescents in the transgender community, bullying has become a major concern. A 2012 national study conducted by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reported that almost nine out of ten (89 percent) of transgender adolescents have faced some form of harassment in school.

Almost half (about 46 percent) miss at least a day of school each month because they fear bullying and harassment. The study also concluded that transgender individuals have an increased risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs.

“It definitely has to be a collaborative effort,” said Bryce Celotto, Public Policy Assistant at GLSEN. “Students should reach out to teachers, and they, in turn, should reach out to the administrators.”

Though Celotto calls the transgender movement right now as “momentous,” he acknowledges that transgender adolescents still face a great deal of hardships.

And the hardships he knows all too well. Born as Bryanna, Celotto now goes by Bryce and identifies as a transgender man.

Pamela Brumfield believes high school should be a little less about the labels and more about shaping the individual. “We just need to see everyone for who they are–as people,” she said.

Brumfield, 42, of Alexandria, Virginia is the newest principal at Edison High School located in Fairfax County. She believes every pupil who goes to public school has the right and belongs to be there.

“Students are people,” she said. “I don’t want to see any adult talking down, belittling, or embarrassing a student.”

Celotto, a 21-year-old District resident, says that it helped a lot when teachers began addressing his identity and rights. “I felt respected,” he said. He hopes that his work in GLSEN would help provide transgender students across the country with protection from discrimination and bullying.

The District of Columbia and Maryland both have statewide laws that protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment, according to the American Civil Liberties Union Virginia has no state-wide laws that provide such protections.

Asked why might this be the case, Jasmine Purcell, 16, of Lorton, Virginia believes it all of has to do with the society and the time.

“People are afraid of change,” she said.

Purcell supports allowing transgendered individuals to participate in gender-related activities that match their gender identity. She believes this right should be expanded not only to schools, but in other public places.

Others, such as Marisol Chavez, aren’t so certain.

“I just don’t think that the thoughts of transgendered people are their own,” she says, regarding gender identity. “Parents are getting lazy nowadays, and today’s youth receives so much influence from the world.”

The 16 year-old Alexandria resident also believes that society is feeding into the idea of transgendered identity.

Nonetheless, both parties agree that this is an issue that Virginia should pay attention to. Chavez believes parents should keep a closer eye on what influences the youth.

As for Purcell?

“People need to keep up with the times,” she said.


Founded in 1975, the Washington Association of Black Journalists is an organization of Black journalists, journalism professors, public relations professionals and student journalists in the D.C., metro area. WABJ provides members with ongoing professional education opportunities and advocates for greater diversification of the profession.