As the issues surrounding transgender and LGBTQ students become increasingly politicized in Utah, one group is providing support for those who identify differently from their peers.
Utah FAM, an alliance founded by Utah educators, recently held an inclusion rally at the state Capitol to validate the tens of thousands of LGBTQ teachers, students and families in Utah's public schools.
Allison Martin, co-founder of Utah FAM, said some districts and even the Utah Legislature have taken actions that isolated and shamed transgender kids. In one district, a student asked his teacher to read a book to the class about a boy with transgender issues. Martin was stunned by the reaction.
"The district not only banning the book "Call Me Max," but also pulling every book that had to do with racism, varying abilities, differences in religion or other types of things, and then individually re-approved with the exception of anything LGBTQ," Martin reported.
District officials said the review process was standard procedure. Martin also noted a video of a boy being cheered on while he cut down a Pride flag in front of his school went viral, and state lawmakers considered a bill to deny certain types of health care to transgender kids.
She explained Utah FAM hosted the rally to counter negative messages.
"Our transgender students saw this in the news," Martin observed. "They saw what happened, just even reading a book that included a transgender character was considered so controversial that the book had to be banned, which speaks a lot to whether or not a student's identity is acceptable in school."
Martin, who is also is an assistant principal at a Salt Lake City high school, believes much of the sometimes harsh, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric comes from misunderstandings and the political belief they are challenging the status quo.
"So anything that's disrupting the traditional systems of power, I guess, is coming into question," Martin contended. "And the same people who attack the transgender kids who attack anti-racist work."