May 17: Trans* Youth Speaks Out!

Posted by Wayves Volunteer 17/05/2013

Participants at May 16 IDAHoT Rally form a human chain around Halifax's Grand Parade Square,

By Jessica Robin Durling

Cancer is a disease that is merciless and kills. It spreads without a known stop visible. Hate is cancer. It will pillage our communities and it will kill our brothers and sisters. My name is Jessica Durling. I am 17 years old and I have tasted prejudice.  

I am transgender and a devoted Christian. Over the last year I’ve been fighting for transgender rights in the school system of Nova Scotia with The Youth Project and my close friend Skye Jessie. Because I am trans* my school board didn’t want me to use the female washroom. They didn’t want me to go into gendered spaces in school, going so far as to try and suspend me if I did.

With no policy to help me out, I was faced with an unfair choice.  This was my final year in high school, and I was faced with the decision to be suspended, or continue in school not being seen for who I am. I did something different, I said no. I said we will not be separated based on something we cannot control. Rosa Parks, when asked to sit at the back of the bus because she was black said, no. And, with our community looking on to see such blatant discrimination, I too will say no. 

I couldn’t graduate knowing this will continue to hurt and discriminate against transgender youth – not just me, but everyone after me. I couldn’t allow that. Students at my school organized a petition against me to stop me. They wanted to force me into the male washroom – you know why? They wanted to beat me where nobody could see it. Hate would rather beat and kill than give peace and equality. I fought it and would have lost if I was alone, but I wasn’t. The Youth Project and Skye stood by my side. 

My friend showed me the law that had thankfully passed recently – Bill 140, that protected gender identity and expression. We won this battle because the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project pushed for it, and now Nova Scotia recognizes me for who I am, and defended my rights. I realized some people won’t do the right thing until the end, and we cannot beat hate alone.

We must stand together and lead with love, and not let hate and prejudice prevail. We must stand as a family and say no. We will not lie still while our brothers and sisters get spit on for who they are, whether they love a man or fall head over heels for that beautiful girl, or even discriminated against for the gender they are. I want to talk to you about what it means to be human. 

A transgender girl once told me just because two people were transgender doesn’t make them friends, I couldn’t disagree more. It doesn’t matter if you like apples or oranges, red or blue - we have something that whether or not we like it, joins us together.  Only if we stand together could we defeat it. Allies and victims alike, what effects one of us effects all of us and the children of tomorrow.

What we do depends on if the little boy of tomorrow grows up to be killed out of misunderstanding. What we do today depends if that little girl cuts herself because she likes other girls.  Use your talents and power to make a change.  Writers right, speakers speak, protestors protest! Use your talents against hate together, and it cannot win! 

Hate is not natural - it is taught, we have to educate to love one another. Some children have two dads, some have one and some have none.  Do not show this hate and do not encourage it, teach love and show compassion even in the darkest times that one day we might all be joined under equality.

The world will not just fill itself with love and compassion we have to stand up and fight for it. This is not the end or the beginning of fighting for equal rights, but the beginning of a new chapter, a chapter where the people of Halifax say no to hate and step forward out of the darkness. Live your life so that Westboro Baptist Church will want to picket your funeral, Martin Luther King Jr. will give you a hug, and Raymond Taavel will shake your hand with pride.

Editor's Note: Jessica Robin Durling is a grade 12 student at Hants East Rural High.  Jessica made news last month when she took a stand against the transphobia in her school after she faced suspension for using the women’s washroom. You can read more about her courageous actions here.  Wayves is proud to share her inspiring words with members of the community who could not be present at the rally on May 16th.

The Photo above shows Jessica addressing the rally with her message of love not hate. Photos by Kirk Furlotte. Wayves thanks the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project for making Jessica's speech and these photos availabe for publication.


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