March 4, 2022 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden | Illustration by Kira Schulist
Across the country, transgender students are facing varying degrees of harassment, ridicule, and invalidation. Colorado Springs is no exception; recently, Jason Jorgenson, a District 11 school board member, posted anti-trans content to his Facebook.
The post that raised concern presented a trans individual at the doctor’s office. The caption said “When you trans and you think you pregnant,” and the image displayed showed a large amount of feces on a monitor. The post, which has since been deleted, raised concern throughout D11 for transgender students.
In response to the post, students, teachers, and community members protested, calling for Jorgenson to resign. The group was also joined by Colorado Springs Inside Out Youth Services, an organization that supports disadvantaged queer students within the Pikes Peak region. Members from the protest also spoke out about the precedent which this post sets for acceptable conversations about trans students within schools.
After the time for public comment ended, Jorgenson gave no impression of an intent to resign. He instead thanked the community for their comments and asked for forgiveness as he moves forward “in trying to model better behavior for all.”
Though the damage to trans students within the district is not quantifiable, these comments from someone within the governing body for schools, in Jorgenson’s own words, “negatively impacted certain people within our community.”
For trans students, these actions are a small example of a larger trans-exclusionary education culture.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, transgender students are statistically more likely to struggle with self-image issues and mental health concerns. Recently, states like Florida and Texas have debated legislation that creates hostile education environments for students within the LGBTQIA+ community. In Texas, proposed legislation goes so far as to require parents of trans students be reported. Trans-exclusionary ideologies have become a topic of debate in school board meetings across the country, not just in D-11.
As the trans community continues to face aggression and hostility, students are becoming more vocal in advocating for schools and curriculum that are inclusive and equitable. Students aren’t taking on this task alone, as organizations like Inside Out Youth Services are also putting their advocacy and support efforts towards students experiencing discrimination in schools. Their website includes their open letter for accountability in school governing bodies.
“Elected officials have a responsibility to represent all of their constituents,” the letter says. “We especially trust our school boards and boards of education to keep the best interests of students, their families, faculty, and staff at heart. This trust has been violated at least three times in recent weeks.”
Some students are facing ridicule about their identities in the larger education sphere as well. Heather Horton, senior director of student health and wellbeing at Colorado College, said in an interview that “in the last six to eight years there has been a normalization and an empowerment of people who I think are actually in the minority in terms of their beliefs of people and identity and appropriate behavior.”
For students at CC and for those within the larger community, knowing what resources exist to support queer students can be especially important during this time. The Counseling Center, Health and Wellness Center, and Chaplain’s Office can all offer support for students. Learning Development and Outreach Coordinator Noble Gough is also available to offer their support for students experiencing distress within the LGBTQ+ community.