Submitted by City of Medford Diversity Director Diane McLeod.
Thursday the Diane McLeod, Diversity Director of the City of Medford hosted the Massachusetts Association of Human Rights & Relations Commissions (MAHRC) and Lauren Willhoite, Presidential Fellow of Boston's Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to roll out the new federal regulations that provide protections for housing and banking entities that receive federal dollars. The forum was called LGBT Equal Access to HUD Programs and Cultural Competancy. Those in attendance were members of the MAHRC, personnel from housing authorities, law enforcement officials and staff from various municipalities.
The program began with Gunner Scott of Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) presenting a video clip from "I Am: Trans People Speak", that highlights the struggles, attitudes, and prejudices, faced by individuals who are just trying to live their lives, as well as their hopes and dreams.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Wayne Maines, from Old Town, Maine whose family has endured years of difficulty as a result of bullying, harassment and discrimination pertaining to his daughter's gender identity. He drove 5 1/2 hours to speak to those in attendance, often pausing as he told their emotional story. He and his wife have identical twins; one boy, Jonas and one girl, Nicole. Nicole is transgender. Nicole is a vibrant 'sassy' young lady who is lucky to have an incredibly supportive family. Wayne reminded us that this is not always the case for many transgender children. That is why he needs to tell his families most personal stories to strangers. Everyone needs to learn more about transgender children. No child should have to go to school afraid. No child should be isolated from her classmates and every child deserves the same educational opportunities.
Nicole knew she was a girl at a very young age. Her interests from the time she could walk were pink sparkly dresses, wanting to be a princess and everything girl. She and her brother Jonas always knew who she was and together through each stage of development they taught their parents and others that she is a girl and that transgender children exist.
Their journey has not always been easy. They have faced many difficulties; bullying, harassment and discrimination. They changed schools and their family lived in 'stealth' mode (In Hiding) for two years until they found a safe and accepting High School. The bullying, harassment and discrimination that Nicole faced in the Orono School Systen denied her the same education as her classmate. During the 5th and 6th grade, as other students went about their day Nicole was assigned a guard to keep her from harm. No child should have to be under such scrutiny.
Dr. Maines had many defining moments that help him grow, after reading that over 50 percent of Trans youth attempt suicide he knew he had to find new ways to help him grow and his daughter grow. He vowed that this would not happen to his child. He explained that he and his wife Kelly could not do this work alone. It takes a team to support these children. He praised Dr. Spack and the Children's Hospital's GeMS Clinic (Gender Management Services) which is a multidisciplinary clinic that treats the medical and psychosocial issues of children, adolescents, and adults with gender identity disorder (GID). He thanked his close friend Noel March, who was the first person he turned to for help when others targeted his little girl. Noel March, is now the U.S Marshal for the District of Maine. He worked closely with the Maine family and was on hand to support LGBT education and speak about the importance of training for law enforcement professionals.
Lauren Willhoite highlighted the regulations, protections, and outlined several examples of discriminatory situations in housing and banking.
Gunner Scott spoke of the many difficulties faced by Trans individuals such as family acceptance issues, homelessness, suicide, and unemployment, to name a few. The panel answered questions, and concluded that education, information, and training is essential for better community understanding. Diane noted that we often fear what we don't understand, and whether the issue one of disability, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity, we all need to be educated to be better people and a better community.