In the second part of their conversation with Children’s Rights, Elliott Hinkle, national expert and consultant, spoke candidly about the challenges and threats trans and non-binary youth face today. These challenges range from legislative attacks targeting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community to everyday concerns such as finding stable housing and managing finances.
Despite the challenges and current landscape of LGBTQ+ rights, Elliott spoke with hope about the resiliency of trans and nonbinary youth and suggested actions for what we can do to protect their rights.
Can you tell us about the Safe Havens project?
The Safe Havens report, to be published early next year, is an update to a 2017 report done by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Lambda Legal, and Children’s Rights to help better inform the field and advise policymakers about trans youth in foster systems.
I feel like I got the best part of the project, which has been talking to young people across the U.S., meeting them, hearing more about their stories and their background and who they are, and finding out from them what they think systems can do better.
The youth who are contributing to this project are resilient, they’re funny, they’re hopeful. They’re kind and generous, and they’re also still young. They’re still trying to stabilize housing and finances and figure out how the world works.
What should we be on the lookout for in the next legislative session?
Some of the same themes from last year around parental rights will remain. For example, people use child abuse as a covering for separating families who are supporting their queer and trans youth. Also, attacks on gender affirming health care or health care in general, sports bans, which somewhat overlaps with bathroom bans or policies. Some of these issues become interconnected around bodily autonomy, the fight for the ability to make decisions about your body.
Last but not least, we should keep an eye out for what Chase has called “weaponized misinformation.” Meaning a concerted, organized, well-funded effort to send out misinformation that helps to maintain the idea that anyone who doesn’t fit male or female is seen as othered or wrong.
Can you give an example of weaponized information?
In a lot of states, in school board meetings, legislative hearings, and committee meetings, experts who are often paid, come and tell the story of regretting their transition. Interestingly, what people have found in receipts and emails is that it’s like the same eight people going across the country sharing the same story.
That one person’s story may be true, but what’s weaponized is that because it wasn’t good for them, then it must be bad for everyone. So that it makes legislators, doctors, whoever feel like, well, if that’s the case, we need to stop this. When the truth is statistically, the percentage of people who want to de-transition is very low. And it’s sad that young people are being used as pawns.
What are your priority must-have supports for youth?
Most important is community relationships, a safe place to go — people and a place, which can be a house, an apartment, a dorm, whatever that looks like. And then access to quality and timely mental and physical health care. We all need our wellness to be able to show up in any way. Beyond that is access to gender affirming and just life affirming activities, spaces, and opportunities. And the knowing that you aren’t supposed to be harassed and that you’d have a right to safety and care.
Can you give an example of how we can support something awesome a young person is doing?
I think of a young person who wants to be an engineer. They might also be trans sure, but, do they know how to apply for college? Do they need a letter of recommendation? Do they need to visit that program? Or go to a summer camp to explore it? So, I think those sorts of things are just as important. Identity wise, there might be young people who are far more interested in learning about their cultural identity and their roots than they are focused on just their transness, or they want to experience both of those things together.
It’s so important to just get to know and remember the whole person.