The student news site of Lincoln-Way East High School

The Winged Messenger

The student news site of Lincoln-Way East High School

The Winged Messenger

The student news site of Lincoln-Way East High School

The Winged Messenger

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April 25, 2024

A Brief Summary of the Transgender Individual’s Experience


Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community has never been easy. Regardless of where or when in time a queer person could possibly be in, there has always been backlash and bigotry. And as our societal views have evolved and changed, so has the experience of queer individuals. Yet there still remains a large stigma around queerness, especially for transgender folks. Whether we look at the Lincoln-Way East environment specifically or the larger American society, trans people face constant discrimination and hardships. This article is a brief summary of these, both in general and in specificity to LWE. Please note that I, the author, am a transgender individual. I have a bias relating to this topic, but I also have personal experience. Please also note that this article is not political; it is about people. 


Wait, what does this even mean? 

Some students (or possibly even teachers) may not be familiar with the terminology commonly used when discussing trans rights. These aren’t buzzwords or offensive terms. Their etymology relates back to Latin prefixes. 

Transgender – A label that refers to people who are a different gender than the one they are assigned at birth. This is an umbrella term that also refers to non-binary and other identities that do not fit within the gender binary. There may be folks out there that identify with a non-binary label, but do not identify with the label of transgender.  

Cisgender – A label that refers to people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. This term is not offensive, and it carries a neutral connotation. It is simply referring to people who are not transgender. 

Once somebody recognizes these terms and understands that they are used to refer to groups of people with no inherent connotation, they can recognize a few simple statements about trans people: 

  • How someone chooses to express their gender does not necessarily reflect their gender identity. 
  • Someone’s identity or their understanding of it may change over time. That doesn’t make their identity at any point more or less valid. 
  • Regardless of your understanding of concepts related to gender, the most important principle to keep in mind is to listen and to respect. 

If you’ve agreed with everything up to this point, you’re able to understand later parts of this article. If you can’t agree with these basic points, you might need to take a break and ask yourself why. These concepts aren’t out to get anyone; they are not targeting anyone; they are not new concepts, though some of the nomenclature may be; and the most important part is the last bullet point above. Take some time to think about these. 


Any Given Day 

Transgender folks face added stress, harassment, and challenges on top of day-to-day life. Bigotry and discrimination towards trans people (also known as transphobia) is something that is commonplace, despite its malicious nature. Depending on who they are around or with, a trans individual may have to be around transphobic people, whether that is their peers, colleagues, authority, or even family. Other burdens are carried as well; gender dysphoria, or the distress that comes with one’s gender-related characteristics not matching one’s identity, can heighten negative emotions such as sadness, anger, and anxiety, or lead to negative thought patterns like suicidal ideation. None of these are joking matters, or something that is exaggerated. Even if you think that any part of this is unnecessary or fabricated, someone who is struggling should receive support, not hate.  

Trans people face much higher rates of abuse, homelessness, and suicide, as well as higher chances for work and housing discrimination (see references for sources). A lot of these are either indications or results of a greater societal pushback against the trans community. It is important to acknowledge this and recognize that trans people are still people that deserve kindness and safety like anyone else. 

What can I do? You may ask, seeing all this doom and gloom around the subject. You might have a classmate that’s trans or non-binary. Maybe a family member or friend recently came out. There are several trans folks currently attending LWE, and many more in the Frankfort community. The following section is going to be more specific about how our local community is in reception to transgender individuals. 


Being Trans at Lincoln-Way East 

There are a few dozen students at our school that are trans and/or non-binary. Some of them may not be out to their family, their teachers, or even their friends. Some of them don’t conform to gender norms. And there’s no shortage of other students that are transphobic. 

From my personal experience, being trans in this school community isn’t sunshine and rainbows, but it is a lot better than it could be. Granted, I have a supportive family and social circle, but Illinois has several laws that protect trans individuals from certain forms of discrimination, and there is no current legislation that is targeting members of the larger queer community, including trans people. The school does have an officially designated gender-neutral bathroom: the single-use restroom in the nurse’s office. Trans students who don’t feel comfortable in either the girl’s or boy’s bathroom have to walk to and from the nurse’s office if they need to go. In PPS, Ms. Schaefer, the counselors, and other staff have experience helping and supporting trans students. They can message teachers to let them know how to properly address trans students, and they can help with other gender-related instances, too.  

For me, freshman year was my first time being out to everyone. I thought that I could get a fresh start as the two middle schools merged and (hopefully) people changed. And overall, I was a lot happier than I was in middle school, though it wasn’t completely related to gender (I had several family losses and a pandemic to deal with through 6th-8th grades). I also found trans friends and mentors that helped me grow into my authentic self. But I was also met with pushback from some of my peers. There were a handful of students that were outrightly bigoted, and a few that went out of their way to show me. However, I believe most students at East simply didn’t know how to respond, and they didn’t feel comfortable calling out their classmates. I hope that at least a few of those people are reading this, learning more, and realizing their empathy. 

Here’s a few key things to keep in mind: 

  • If you slip up and use the wrong gendered language or name for someone, you can just correct yourself quickly. Most trans folks I know don’t get frustrated with people who make an honest mistake every once in a while. Just try to keep it in mind when conversing about a trans person. 
  • If you notice someone making a mean-spirited “joke” to or about a trans person, tell them it’s not funny. You don’t have to launch into a whole rant about it. Being aware of someone’s prejudices is important and letting them know you’re not okay with it is of equivocal paramountcy. 
  • Don’t treat anyone different on the sole basis of being trans. I know a lot of trans kids, myself included, go out of their way to be different from the mainstream. However, that’s not something correlational to their transness.  
  • Keep in mind that trans people are still people. 



No matter how verbose this all may seem, it comes down to basic respect. I really hope that this gives people a little more insight to what it’s like to be trans, both in general and at Lincoln-Way East specifically. I want to emphasize that this is only a summary of my trans experience. It’s nearly impossible to put all parts of it into words. I just hope that someone reads this and walks away knowing a little more. Be kind to others, and to yourself as well. Take care. 

  • Felix Sacks 
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