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International Transgender Day of Visibility

  Dwayne Fontenette, Jr.       March 30, 2022

To the Order of the Arrow community:

March 31 is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual day to celebrate the contributions of transgender people to society and to raise awareness of the work that remains to ensure that the world is a safe and loving place for transgender people.

If you’ve never heard of the International Transgender Day of Visibility, you might be wondering why it exists; three numbers help to tell the story: 52, 20 and 56.

  • 52 percent of transgender and non-binary youth reported that they considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 20 percent attempted suicide.*
  • Usage of a transgender or non-binary person’s chosen name (instead of their birth name if it differs) resulted in a 56 percent decrease in suicidal behavior in each additional context in which it was used (home, school, work, friends, etc).**

The first two numbers (52 percent and 20 percent) are staggering and heartbreaking. The third number (56 percent) is instructive to all of us: each of us has the power to save lives by treating transgender and non-binary people with the dignity, care, and love they deserve.

As Order of the Arrow members, we are called to lead with love. As youth leaders and adult advisers, it is our responsibility to ensure that our chapters and lodges are safe and loving communities, where all youth - including transgender and non-binary youth - can be themselves and become the leaders they aspire to be. Below, the Order of the Arrow is sharing resources to support you in this effort.

You will also find below reflections from three transgender Order of the Arrow leaders: Janelle Drake, Michael Kinstcher, and Erin Russ. I thank these leaders for lending their voices today and for their brave leadership every day.

My gratitude extends to all transgender and non-binary Order of the Arrow members for choosing to serve others. Our organization is stronger because you are here. May this note serve as affirmation that you belong here and that the Order of the Arrow supports and cares for you.

With love,

Dwayne Fontenette, Jr.

National Order of the Arrow Committee | Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I can be reached at: @email

Sources:

* National Survey of LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021

** Research Brief: Gender-Affirming Care for Youth

Resources

From the Order of the Arrow

In 2022, the Order of the Arrow published two new resources:

These resources represent the beginning of the OA’s efforts to codify trans-inclusive practices. To request or suggest additional resources, email the OA’s office of diversity, equity, and inclusion: @email. We are eager to hear from you.

From the Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) young people.

Voices from our Trans Community

The Order of the Arrow is proud to have transgender leaders serving at various levels of our program. We invited a few of them to share their own reflections to mark the International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Janelle Drake

Janelle Drake

Pronouns: She/Her

City, State: Fitchburg, MA

Current and Recent Scouting Roles: Camp Volunteer, Eagle Board of Review member

Scouting Honors: Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor

Why does the International Transgender Day of Visibility matter? What does it mean to you?

Transgender Day of Visibility matters because it's a way to highlight that all genders are valid, and respecting a person's gender identity is an easy way to help them feel seen and be more comfortable in most situations.

What message would you like to share with the OA's transgender members?

I would encourage the OA's trans members to share as much of their identity with others as they are comfortable with, when they are ready. Doing so might help to pave the way and make it easier for others to realize their own identity or come out.

Michael Kintscher

Michael Kintscher

Pronouns: They/Them

City, State: Tempe, Arizona

Current and Recent Scouting Roles: OA National Communications Audio Adviser, Western Region Committee, Western Region Communications Adviser, Lodge Associate Adviser, Western Region Chief

Scouting Honors: Vigil Honor, Eagle Scout, Founders Award, Distinguished Service Award

Why does the International Transgender Day of Visibility matter? What does it mean to you?

The International Transgender Day of Visibility is an important reminder to everyone that we, trans people, are not some other group far away from you; we are your friends, your neighbors, and your fellow Scouts. This is an opportunity for us to share our stories, and to see each other, and to remember we are not alone!

This day is an opportunity for me to remind the world (and myself) that yes, I am nonbinary transgender. It is a big part of who I am, and it affects how I experience the world and how I lead. But I am also a PhD student, a professional engineer, a home cook and a writer. I play video games, I use power tools with painted nails, and I cry every time I see a Pixar movie. My gender does not define nor limit who I am, and I have no obligation to fulfill others’ expectations of who I should be. I am me, and that makes me happy.

What message would you like to share with the OA's transgender members?

I see you. Being yourself is intimidating and it can be tough to show others who you really are. I remember so many uncomfortable nights, and I remember just wishing someone would understand me. It's ok to be uncomfortable, and it's ok to ask others around you for support! There are so many good people around you in this Order – in *our* Order. Your thoughts and experiences matter just as much as the others around you, and you have every right to live happily as your authentic self. You, the real you, matters. Don’t you ever forget that.

Erin Russ

Erin Russ

Pronouns: She/They

City, State: Tucson, AZ

Current and Recent Scouting Roles: Catalina Council DEI Champion, Council Board of Directors, Scoutmaster, Lodge Adviser

Scouting Honors:: Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor

Why does the International Transgender Day of Visibility matter? What does it mean to you?

Transgender Day of Visibility matters because it's an opportunity for transgender people to let the world know who we are.

Trans people have been instrumental in creating some of our modern technology items, we create new industries, sit in C-suites at major multinational corporations, fix computers, serve burgers at fast-food joints. We drive Uber, Lyft and cabs over the road trucks and captain 747 cargo jets. We raise kids, we mentor kids, we are actors and major movie directors. We are rock and roll stars and classical pianists, and, like everyone else, many of us want to be any of those things aren't talented enough.

We support parents, we support each other, we are grandparents, pastors, through hikers, and day-hikers. We struggle with physical illness, we struggle with getting older, we struggle with PTSD, we struggle with everything else that people struggle with.

We live, laugh, and lead like everyone else.

What message would you like to share with the OA's transgender members?

Scouting is a big part of who I am today and I am in my mid 60s. Scouting opened the door for me to become a military officer with confidence, which in turn gave me the skills, the ability, and the willingness to stand up for myself and for others like me.

‘To love one another’ is an action phrase. Love is not a passive emotion, it is a proactive approach to living life. So to love one another means that we have to sometimes go out of our way to serve and care for others.

I encourage those of us who are able to live authentically to walk alongside the many who can't yet do so until they are able to live authentically, too.