By Brian Pacheco
May 27, 2016
When I came out to my mother her heart was changed forever. And the world gained a fierce LGBTQ advocate in her.
So it’s only natural that when a 13-year-old was sent to her office for fighting at her South Bronx school that my mother would change that student’s life forever.
Let’s call the student Luz. Luz is a survivor of child sexual abuse and is transgender.
Sadly, sexual abuse in the LGBTQ community is more common than one might think. Available research shows that LGBT youth are more likely to have experienced sexual abuse than heterosexual youth.
The gender binary we accept as a society can be detrimental to transgender youth, especially those who are victims of sexual abuse. At Safe Horizon’s Manhattan Child Advocacy Center, which investigates, responds to, and prosecutes all types of child abuse cases, Clinical Forensic Specialist Amanda Santamaria remembers one such case involving a 7-year-old transgender boy who alleged his father had sexually abused him. During the investigation, Santamaria found herself having to correct a partner from another organization who continued to mis-gender the young boy. Santamaria, herself, admitted to having some difficulties when referring to the boy’s genitalia during the investigation. A real positive about this particular case was that Safe Horizon staff and the young boy’s mother were affirming of his gender identity.
Sadly, this was not the case for Luz.
Luz’s step-father would call her a “faggot.” Instead of stepping in, Luz’s mother would get upset with Luz for acting “like that.” In front of her mother, Luz had to dress masculine and was forced to take part in Boy Scouts.
As a result, Luz was left to her own devices to affirm her gender identity. My mother suspected that Luz would trade sex to be able to buy herself “women’s clothing, ” accessories, and makeup.
And this comes with risks. Safe Horizon’s Aponte-Veras explains, “A lot of our young people describe being victimized while trading sex. For example, a person may bring out a weapon and force them to do whatever they want.” Transgender advocate Janet Mock wrote in a powerful essay about her own engagement in survival sex that, “Engaging in the sex trades increases a person’s risk for criminalization, acquiring HIV or other STIs, sexual abuse, and violence.”
Brown stated that many transgender youth feel violence is something they just have to deal with because of their identity. This shouldn’t be the case. We have to do better to let transgender youth know that they do not deserve violence or abuse. They deserve to be loved, respected, and valued.
So, what happened with Luz?
Instead of fighting when she was called a “faggot, ” she would run into my mom’s office to seek support. She started to talk about the sexual abuse she endured and my mother made the appropriate referrals for her to get a health screening and seek additional counseling.
Luz also graduated as my mother proudly looked on. Which was the last time she ever saw Luz.
Though they lost touch, we like to think that Luz found the stability and support that so many transgender youth, sadly, never find.