WUOMFM

Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.

Coming out as transgender senior year

May 11, 2016
Alanna Roberts and her mom Lindsey.
Alanna Roberts

High school seniors are counting down the last few weeks until graduation.

In the small township of Ida, Michigan, Alanna Roberts is looking back on a pretty big senior year.

She was the first student in her high school, and maybe even the whole township, to come out as transgender.

Those first few months were rough.

"A lot of guys threatened to rip out my hair extensions when I was like walking by,” she says, sitting on the front porch of the house she shares with her mom, stepdad and three younger brothers.  

Devyn Farries
Cass Adair / Michigan Radio

Michigan is in the midst of a controversy surrounding transgender people’s access to public bathrooms.

It’s a hot-button issue evidenced by the nearly 10,000 people who have filed public comments on the State Board of Education’s draft of voluntary guidelines for schools to meet the needs of their transgender students. By comparison, no other proposals have received more than 40 comments.

screenshot of Abbi's Facebook post

She first went into the system when she was five years old, she says.

She bounced around, like any of the thousands of kids in Michigan who go through foster care. So she waited, like everyone else waits. Many of them wait so long, they turn 18 in foster care, and they’re never adopted. They “age out.”

But her story took a different turn. 

It was this winter. January. Abbi was 15 years old. We’re just using her first name.

She was living in a group home, thinking of another year, another birthday without a family. She talked to her therapist about it.

Julisa Abad moved to Detroit five years ago. Since then she’s become one of the most outspoken advocates for transgender issues in the area.
Julisa Abad

 

 

 

Julisa Abad was was never kicked out of her home. She was never in the child welfare system. But her dad stopped talking to her years ago.  We spoke to her and her friend, Ashley Avery, as part of our Family Values documentary about the ways in which family rejection and acceptance impacts health outcomes for LGBTQ youth.

 

Based on hundreds of interviews with LGBTQ youth and families, the Family Acceptance Project codified a whole spectrum of rejecting and accepting behavior.
Family Acceptance Project

If you ask Cherish Blackmon about her gender, you won’t get a simple answer.

“Well, on the inside, I definitely identify my masculinity, but I also acknowledge my feminine on the outside because I know that God has given me the privilege to experience the opposite body of what I originally am in this lifetime," she said. "I feel like I’m both, but it feels like one.”

As for her sexual orientation, Blackmon says early on she knew she was attracted to women.

Teresa Qin / Flickr Creative Commons / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Having a parent incarcerated is a stressful, traumatic experience of the same magnitude as abuse, domestic violence and divorce, according to a report released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Elvert Barnes / Flickr Creative Commons / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

About 210,000 kids under age 18 are being raised nationally by more than 122,000 same-sex couples.

And according to a new study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, these kids turn out just as well as kids with heterosexual parents.

Tomas Quinones / Flickr Creative Commons / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

A sustainable community sits on a 27-acre plot of land in central Texas.

There are 25 canvas cottages, 100 RVs, and 125 micro-homes.

Residents enjoy communal kitchens and laundry facilities, a market, chickens and goats, an art gallery, and even an outdoor movie theater, and bed and breakfast.

And the residents all have one thing in common: They are chronically homeless.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The tiny white ball arcs against the cold gray sky, almost too hard to see.  

"That's a good ball," says Devon Kitchen, eyes focused as the ball drops quietly on the still-soggy fairway at Lincoln Golf Club on the northern edge of Muskegon.

It’s one of those days when spring backtracks, feels more like winter. Not a great day for golfing.

But it doesn’t seem to bother Kitchen. The 17-year-old is just happy to be on the course again. He's dressed in a bright orange cap, dark gray pullover and black pants. Tiger colors. Kitchen is a student at the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy, home of the Tigers. Before Kitchen showed up at the school, the Tigers didn't have a golf team. Now they do. 

"It was a challenge," Kitchen says, "but we got here."

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

"Used to be a church right here," Jamiel Robinson says, nodding toward a storefront on South Division in Grand Rapids. 

"Yeah?" I say, eyeing the business. "Now they do tattoos. Ain’t the same at all."

"It’s not the same."

We're standing at the corner of Division and McConnell. Next to us is a gray, boarded up building Robinson’s grandfather once owned. It had a barbershop, a candy store, a pool hall and apartments upstairs. But it was old and needed repairs. In 2005, Robinson’s family sold it.

Then the building boom in the area happened.  

Pages