Posting on that Mother Jones article about the foster care system and tracking the experiences of Kenneth Jones, the child the story followed, reminded me of another story of another queer youth that hit the news this week.
You probably saw that a transgender athlete named Kye Allum is going to continue for GW’s women’s bb team even as he has announced his transition to the gender he identifies as, a young man. And the GW team and coach are supporting him all along the way. I read his story in Outsports earlier this week where he spoke in depth with the interviewer about his gender transition over the past few years.
In high school, Allums met other people who acted and dressed like him: They were lesbians. For the next few years Allums identified as lesbian, finally fitting into a group that he could define. As he progressed deep into his teens, despite their similar dress and manner, he realized he just didn’t fit with the lesbians at his school either.
It was a text message from his mother during his freshman year at George Washington that flipped the switch. They were in a fierce texting battle when his mother wrote, “Who do you think you are, young lady?” The answer was suddenly crystal clear to him: He wasn’t a young lady at all.
Having just read the MJ article I found myself comparing Kye’s experience of his queer body to the one at the close of the Mother Jones article discussed in the post below. The young man featured in the foster care article, Kenneth Jones, tells a tale of years of homophobic and gendered bullying, attacks, assaults, and horrifying violence. His story includes a school system that pulled him out of classes because they ‘couldn’t protect him,’ case workers who couldn’t find a home for him where he was safe from attacks for being gay or attacks for the way he embodied his maleness, and an extended family who all attacked him for his sexuality and gender presentation and ultimatley threw him away.
At the close of the article Kenneth suggests that he has finally decided to transition to the female gender to save his own life.
When the social workers finally moved him into an independent-living facility, Kenneth was relieved. Having his own space meant he could hide out from the other system kids who were “throwing shade”—tormenting him. He couldn’t hide in his room forever, though. After the New Year, he settled on the solution—a sex change. He’d been considering it for a year and had enrolled in the required counseling sessions at a local clinic, but only now could he articulate his reason for wanting to reboot his identity: He would be safer as a woman. “I’m getting really tired,” Kenneth explains. “I don’t have no other options left.”
I have no grand theorizing to do here, I just couldn’t help but be compelled by Kenneth’s hopes to end the violence in his life by transitioning to a gender that he hopes will make people around him more comfortable. Even as Kye is now facing a media hype about transitioning and the open hostility of those who question his humanity along with his ‘right’ to make his own decisions about his body and gender.