Three LGBTQ teenagers today celebrated Pittsburgh’s first Protect Trans Kids Day, the result of a proclamation they drafted with support from a city councilor.
“It’s difficult growing up to watch many people around you face so much harassment in the places that they're meant to feel safe,” says Legend, one of the teen authors of the proclamation. “It’s just so amazing that we got to come together and put something like this together.”
The proclamation, which was presented this evening during a small reception at Comfort Inn on the North Side to prevent the participating students from missing school, identifies trans kids as “primary political targets in culture wars,” and discusses how “societal mistreatment and stigma” result in higher rates of depression, suicide, and homelessness among trans youth.
“Whereas transgender youth are important and valued members of Pittsburgh, including in our schools, and it is the responsibility of all adults, cisgender and trans, to protect their physical, emotional, and mental welfare and to promote all possibilities for them their growth and flourishing in our community,” reads the proclamation.
The proclamation was sponsored by City Councilor Bobby Wilson (D-North Side) and co-sponsored unanimously by the rest of the City Council.
Wilson frames the proclamation in the context of a community-wide response to an incident earlier this year in which Darian Balcom, an Observatory Hill resident, put up a large sign allegedly directed at her neighbor’s Black trans teenage daughter that read "Transing kids is abuse and homophobia.”
“I am proud to have sponsored this first proclamation issued by Pittsburgh City Council to recognize Protect Trans Kids Day,” says Wilson in a statement. “This is an issue that is important to me and to many Northsiders who have stood up recently in support of trans youth in our neighborhoods.”
Sue Kerr, board president of local nonprofit Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities, convened the group of students and put them in touch with Wilson, whose office also provided some training on proclamation writing. Kerr says PLC plans to convene a different group of local trans teenagers each year to draft a proclamation in support of trans youth.
“We support these kids as becoming advocates for themselves as they are so frequently targeted."
PLC, which was established in 2021 to address needs in the local LGBTQ community, also continues to coordinate the distribution of free "Protect Trans Kids" lawn signs. Kerr says they've already passed out about 700 signs in less than three months.
After Wilson presented the group with their official proclamation, Ace, one of the student writers, expressed “the level of excitement that I feel for everyone in this room to support me and every other trans person, every kid who's had to go through something that they shouldn't have. Having a proclamation in place recognized by the city is such a beautiful moment for me, knowing that it's a stepping stone for kids to not ever have to feel how I felt.”
Devin Browne, an educator from Brashear High School who helped facilitate the proclamation-drafting process, emphasizes the power of youth organizing to make safer and more compassionate communities.
“Pittsburgh Public Schools has made really positive strides in supporting trans and gender expansive students, but this largely came about from our queer students organizing and speaking up and doing the hard work to educate their peers as well as their teachers around LGBTQ issues,” says Browne in a statement. “We need similar steps from the city, and I’m happy to see this proclamation calling on us all to do our part to protect trans kids.”