MetroFocus: January 4, 2023

EXPLORING HATE: NEW YORK’S LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY ON EDGE

The recent mass shooting in Colorado Springs; a rash of druggings and robberies in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood; protests targeting local Drag Queen Story Hour events – all have put New York’s LGBTQIA+ community on edge.  Tonight, we talk to Kalima McKenzie-Simms, Manager of LGBTQ Programs at the New York City Department of Education, and Clark Wolff Hamel, Educational Programs Manager at PFLAG NYC about what’s being done to ensure NYC LGBTQIA+ youth continue to have safe, inclusive spaces, and what can be done to stem the rise in homophobia and transphobia in the culture.  This conversation is part of our Exploring Hate Initiative.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, A COMMUNITY UNDER SIEGE AS AT TALKS ON LGBTQ QIA AMERICANS SURGE.

FROM THE COLORADO NIGHTCLUB SHOOTING TO A SERIES OF DEADLY DRUGGINGS AND ROBBERIES IN NEW YORK CITY, HOW IS THIS IMPACTING THE YOUNGEST MEMBERS OF THAT COMMUNITY, TO ADVOCATES FOR THE YOUTH SPEAK OUT NOW, AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION, AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

NEARLY 7 IN 10 LGBTQIA PLUS STUDENTS REPORTED FEELING UNSAFE AT SCHOOL LAST YEAR BECAUSE OF THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND/OR GENDER IDENTITY.

THIS PROBLEM COULD BE GETTING WORSE.

WITH VIOLENCE AND HATEFUL RHETORIC AGAINST THE COMMUNITY ON THE RISE, FROM THE MASS SHOOTING IN COLORADO SPRINGS THAT KILLED FIVE TO ANTI LGBTQIA PLUS RALLIES AROUND THE COUNTRY TO VERBAL ATTACKS AT DRAG QUEEN STORY HOURS, THERE'S A GROWING SENSE OF UNEASE THAT THE COMMUNITY IS UNDER SIEGE.

THAT'S TRUE EVEN HERE IN NEW YORK, SITE OF THE STONEWALL UPRISING AND LONGTIME CULTURAL HAVEN FOR GAY, QUEER AND TRANS PEOPLE.

TONIGHT, AS PART OF OUR ON GOING EXPLORING HATE INITIATIVE, WE WANT TO FOCUS ON THE IMPACT THIS CLIMATE IS HAVING ON THE CITY'S LGBTQIA PLUS YOUTH.

JOINING ME TONIGHT, I HAVE KALIMA McKENZIE-SIMMS.

KALIMA IS THE MANAGER OF THE LGBTQ PROGRAMS AT THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.

KALIMA, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

ABSOLUTELY.

I'D ALSO LIKE TO BELL COME IN CLARK WOLFF HAMEL.

CLARK IS THE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS MANAGER AT THE ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION PFLAG NYC.

CLARK, IT'S SO GREAT TO HAVE YOU ON THE SHOW.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

SO FIRST, KALIMA, I WANT TO START WITH YOU AND GIVE PEOPLE AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT YOUR POSITION IS AND WHAT ROLE IT PLAYS IN THE NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM.

SURE.

MY ROLE ENCOMPASSES A LOT OF THINGS.

I HANDLE CRISIS MANAGEMENT, WHENEVER SOMETHING HAPPENS AT A SCHOOL DEALING WITH AN LGBTQ STUDENT, I CONNECT THE SCHOOL WITH THE PROPER RESOURCES TO HELP SUPPORT THAT STUDENT AND HANDLE THAT SITUATION.

I PROVIDE TRAINING TO DOE STAFF, SCHOOL STAFF ON LGBTQ INCLUSION POLICY AND BEST PRACTICES ON HOW TO IMPLEMENT THOSE POLICIES.

I ALSO SUPPORT GENDER AND SEXUALITY ALLIANCES AND THEIR CLUB ADVISORS AND HELP THEM WITH BEST PRACTICES THAT THEIR CLUB CAN MAINTAIN ENGAGEMENT AND HAVE A SAFE SPACE FOR STUDENTS AT THE SCHOOL.

FOR PEOPLE WHO MIGHT NOT UNDERSTAND -- WE HEARD EVERYTHING YOU SAID VERY CLEARLY, BUT WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE IN PRACTICE WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT SUPPORTING, MAINTAINING SAFE SPACES?

WHAT DOES THAT ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE IN PRACTICE?

FROM MY END, IT'S REALLY PROVIDING THESE TRAININGS TO STAFF, WHETHER IT'S DISTRICT LEADERSHIP OR SCHOOL LEADERSHIP, TO HELP THEM UNDERSTAND THE RIGHTS IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS AND HOW TO ON A GENERAL DAY-TO-DAY BASIS FOSTER AN INCLUSIVE SKL CULTURE FOR SFUNTS WHO ARE LGBTQ.

THAT COULD BE ANYTHING FROM VISITING A SCHOOL, MAKING SURE THE CLIMATE IS WELCOMING AND AFFIRMING, TO MAKING SURE STUDENTS' PROPER NAMES WERE BEING RESPECTED, THEIR PRONOUNS WERE BEING RESPECTED AND HELDING EVERYONE UNDERSTAND THE IMPACT OF THAT WORK AND THE URGENCY OF THAT WORK.

SPEAKING, OF COURSE, OF URGENCY OF THE WORK, CLARK, I THINK PEOPLE MIGHT BE FAMILIAR AT LEAST WITH YOUR ORGANIZATION NAME.

YOU PROVIDE SUPPORT TO YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR FAMILIES

ABSOLUTELY.

SO PFLAG NEW YORK CITY PROVIDES SUPPORT, EDUCATION, DOES ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF FAMILIES WHO HAVE LGBTQ CHILDREN AND INDIVIDUALS AS WELL AS YOUNG LGBTQ FOLKS IN GENERAL IN SCHOOLS.

AS KALIMA WAS MENTIONING, I ALSO PROVIDE TRAINING TO TEACHERS, TO PARENT AND FAMILIES WITHIN SCHOOL COMMUNITIES.

SO PARENT ASSOCIATIONS, PARENT-TEACHER ASSOCIATIONS.

WE DO PLENTY OF WORKSHOPS WITH THEM.

ESSENTIALLY MAKING SURE THAT LGBTQ YOUNG PEOPLE ARE SURROUNDED BY ADULTS IN THEIR LIFE WHO AT THE VERY LEAST CAN PROVIDE A LEVEL OF SUPPORT AND ACCEPTANCE EVEN IF THEY'RE STILL WORKING ON THE UNDERSTANDING PORTION OF IT ALL.

OKAY.

THEN, GIVEN EVERYTHING I SAID LEADING UP IN THE INTRO, KALIMA, I'M WONDERING WHAT IS IT THAT YOU'RE HEARING FROM STUDENTS ABOUT THEIR CONCERNS AND HOW THE CURRENT CULTURAL MOMENT THAT WE'RE IN IS AFFECTING THEM EMOTIONALLY?

SO IT MAKES THEM FRIGHTENED THAT THIS CAN HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN COMMUNITY AND THEIR OWN SCHOOL.

JUST A LOT OF THE STUDENTS THAT ARE IN DOE HAVE SUPPORTING FAMILIES, BUT A LOT OF THEM DON'T HAVE SUPPORTING FAMILIES.

SCHOOL IS THE ONLY PLACE THEY KNOW THAT IS AN AFFIRMING ENVIRONMENT THAT THEY CAN BE THEIR TRUE SELF, THAT THEY CAN BE OUT AUTHENTICALLY AND WHO THEY FEEL THEY TRULY ARE.

AND THE SCHOOL'S ROLE IS TO SUPPORT THEM NO MATTER WHAT, RIGHT?

STILL, EVEN THOUGH THE D.O.E.

SUPPORTS AND AFFIRMS THESE YOUNG PEOPLE, THEY STILL HAVE THE FEAR, RIGHT?

THEY STILL HAVE THE FEAR THAT THERE'S GOING TO BE AN ADMINISTRATOR OR SOMEONE WHO WORKS IN THEIR SCHOOL WHO HAS THEIR OWN IMPLICIT BIASES.

THEY'RE FEARFUL THEIR PARENT MIGHT FIND OUT THROUGH MANY DIFFERENT AVENUES IF THEY'RE NOT READY TO COME OUT OR THEY FEAR FOR THEIR SAFETY IF THEY COME OUT.

THIS FEAR IS PILING UP ON THEIR BACK EVERY DAY.

THEY'RE EXPECTED TO GO THROUGH SCHOOL AND THRIVE AND STUDY AND DO THE BEST THEY CAN ON THEIR SCHOOL WORK WHEN IN REALITY THEIR MIND BLOCKED BY ALL OF THE FEAR AND JUST THE WAY THEY SHOULD BE, THEY HAVE REASON TO BE FEARFUL BECAUSE OF ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING IN THE WORLD, IN THE COUNTRY.

SO THEY'RE VERY NERVOUS.

THE FACT THEY HAVE THEIR GSAs, AGENDAer AND SEXUALITY ALLIANCES PROVIDES A SPACE WHERE THEY CAN TALK ABOUT THESE FEARS AND HAVE A STAFF MEMBER THAT IS SO OPENLY ACCEPTING AND AFFIRMING, THAT THEY CAN HAVE THAT ONE ADULT.

BECAUSE ONE ADULT CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THAT SITUATION.

I'M ALSO WONDERING, STUDENTS, OF COURSE, ARE CHILDREN -- EVEN THE HIGH SCHOOLERS, EVEN THOUGH THEY TEND TO NOT THINK THAT SOMETIMES.

WITH THAT COMES A STILL-DEVELOPING BRAIN.

I'M WONDERING IF THERE'S ANY RESEARCH OR STUDY ON WHAT THIS KIND OF ON GOING HYPERVIGILANT STRESS HAS ON A DEVELOPING BRAIN.

YES.

IT IS -- THE IMPACT IS REALLY, REALLY STRONG.

THE ANXIETY, THE DEPRESSION, IT'S ALL COMING FROM THE FEAR THAT SOMEONE IS GOING TO ATTACK THEIR IDENTITY OR THAT THEY'RE NOT GOING TO BE ACCEPTED OR THAT THEY'RE GOING TO LOSE ALL THEIR FRIENDS, RIGHT?

THAT PLAYS A BIG TOLL ON A YOUNG PERSON'S MENTAL CAPACITY, AND THE FACT THEY DON'T SHOW UP TO SCHOOL SOMETIMES BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE THE CAPACITY TO EVEN GO TO SCHOOL BECAUSE THEY HAVE THAT FEAR AND THEY'RE NOT ABLE TO THRIVE AND LEARN AND ACCEPT NEW INFORMATION FROM THEIR TEACHERS BECAUSE THAT BLOCK IS THERE.

CLARK, I'M ALSO WONDERING -- WE'VE TALKED A LOT ABOUT THIS ON 'METROFOCUS,' THAT THE STRESSORS THAT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FACING ISN'T JUST COMING FROM THEIR PHASE CAL SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT OR PERHAPS THEIR PHYSICAL NEIGHBORHOOD, FAMILY, ET CETERA, BUT IT CAN ALSO COME FROM ONLINE.

EVEN IF THEY'RE NOT DIRECTLY GETTING ONLINE HARASSMENT, THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF CONCERN RAISED THAT THE RHETORIC, THE TALK, THE OPEN HOSTILITY TOWARDS THE LGBTQIA PLUS COMMUNITY HAS RATCHETED UP.

I'M WONDERING HOW DO YOUNG PEOPLE DEAL WITH THAT.

YOU ALMOST CAN'T BE GEN Z AND NOT BE ON SOCIAL MEDIA, AND YET THAT'S BECOMING A MORE FRAUGHT AND DANGEROUS PLACE.

YEAH.

IT BECOMES EXHAUSTING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO BE ONLINE.

I FOUND A LOT OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND ADULTS WANTING TO DO THINGS IN PERSON MORE AND EVEN HAVING TO COMPROMISE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SAFETY FOR OTHERS.

SO BEING WILLING TO RISK BEING IN A SPACE WHERE THEY MIGHT HAVE A COVID EXPOSURE BECAUSE THEY DON'T FEEL SAFE OR COMFORTABLE DOING SOMETHING ONLINE FOR FEAR THAT THAT COULD RESULT IN A DIFFERENT TYPE OF COMPROMISE OF THEIR SAFETY.

I ALSO -- WHAT KALIMA WAS SAYING, FEELING THREATENED DOESN'T HAVE TO BE HAPPENING IN YOUR CITY OR IN YOUR HOME OR IN YOUR SCHOOL FOR IT TO HAVE A HUGE IMPACT ON YOU.

SO FEELING UNSAFE, EVEN IF YOU HAVE A COMMUNITY AROUND YOU, YOU'RE STILL GOING TO FEEL THOSE EFFECTS.

ARE THERE ANY, I GUESS, RECOMMENDATIONS OR SUGGESTIONS IN HOW THE KIDS BEGIN TO PROCESS THIS FEAR, ANXIETY AND, FRANKLY, TRAUMA?

I THINK SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH COMMUNITY IS AN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT THING FOR ANY YOUNG PERSON WHO IS PART OF A MARGINALIZED COMMUNITY THAT IT IS EXPERIENCING THIS TYPE OF PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF VIOLENCE, BOTH VERBAL VIOLENCE, PHYSICAL VIOLENCE AGAINST FOLKS WITHIN YOUR COMMUNITY TO BE SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT PAIN IS LIKE, HOW DIFFICULT THAT IS, WHETHER IT'S THROUGH A SCHOOL GSA, AS KALIMA WAS MENTIONING, A GENDER AND SEXUALITY ALLIANCE, A DIVERSITY CLUB, WHETHER IT'S GOING TO A PRIDE CENTER, A COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION THAT PROVIDES THOSE SORTS OF GROUPS AND MEETINGS.

INTENTIONALLY SEEKING OUT SUPPORT FROM THOSE WHO REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS LIKE.

KALIMA, I ALSO MENTIONED THAT THERE HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN ANTI-LGBTQIA LEGISLATION HAPPENING IN OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY.

BUT JUST TO PERHAPS REASSURE OR REMIND PEOPLE, BECAUSE NEW YORK STATE AND NEW YORK CITY HAS SOME PROTECTIONS IN PLACE.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THOSE?

YES.

SO NEW YORK STATE HAS PROTECTIONS SUCH AS -- THE D.O.E. SPECIFICALLY, SCHOOL STAFF ARE REQUIRED TO REFER TO STUDENTS BY THEIR CHOSEN NAME, THE NAME THEY ASK TO BE CALLED, THEIR PRONOUNS THEY ASK TO BE CALLED, REGARDLESS OF THE THAT'S THE NAME ON THEIR TRANSCRIPTS OR PERMANENT RECORDS, ET CETERA.

THEY'RE REQUIRED TO RESPECT FOLKS' IDENTITIES, NOT ALLOWED TO MAKE COMMENTARY ON A PERSON'S TRANSITION OR COMING-OUT PROCESS OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT.

THE STATE -- NEW YORK CITY, I SHOULD SAY, REQUIRES US TO HAVE THESE THINGS.

ALSO, THE CITY HAS A REQUIREMENT THAT ALL CITY AGENCY BUILDINGS WHICH NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS FALL UNDER, MUST HAVE AT LEAST ONE GENDER-NEUTRAL BATHROOM AVAILABLE FOR STUDENT USE.

THIS IS NOT SOMETHING YOU SEE IN OTHER CITIES AND OTHER STATES, TO HAVE THAT SPACE WHERE GENDER NON-CONFORMING OR NON-BINARY STUDENTS CAN FEEL SAFE USING THE RESTROOM.

AND THAT'S A HUGE THING.

THAT'S A HUGE -- THAT'S A BIG POLICY.

IT MIGHT SEEM SMALL BECAUSE WE'RE NEW YORK CITY AND WE'RE KIND OF CONDITIONED TO FEEL LIKE WE'RE ACCEPTING, RIGHT?

BUT IN REALITY, THAT'S NOT THE CASE FOR EVERYONE.

SO HAVING THINGS LIKE THE REQUIREMENT TO CALL THE PERSON BY THEIR CHOSEN NAME, THE REQUIREMENT TO HAVE A BATHROOM IN THE BUILDING THAT THEY CAN FEEL SAFE USING IS REALLY, REALLY BENEFICIAL.

A LOT OF FOLKS DON'T HAVE THAT, AND WE'RE REALLY LUCKY.

NEW YORK STATE ALSO HAS THE DIGNITY FOR ALL STUDENTS ACT.

UH-HUH.

IT'S A NON-DISCRIMINATION PIECE OF LEGISLATION IN NEW YORK STATE.

ALSO SON DA AGENDA ACTS WHICH ALL APPLY TO EDUCATION AND EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENTS, A HUGE PART OF KALIMA AND MY JOBS ARE EXPLAINING THAT WE LIVE IN A CITY AND IN A STATE WHERE THESE POLICIES AND LEGISLATURES EXIST TO PROTECT US.

A LOT OF PEOPLE SIMPLY DON'T KNOW.

THEY'RE NOT COMPLIANT BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW THAT THEY EXIST.

THEY DON'T KNOW THAT THEIR BUILDING IS REQUIRED TO HAVE A GENDER-NEUTRAL BATHROOM.

I FEEL LUCKY THAT KALIMA AND I GET TO GO IN AND EDUCATE AND MAKE SURE THESE LAWS AND POLICIES ARE BEING FOLLOWED BECAUSE WE'RE EXTREMELY PRIVILEGED TO HAVE THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

RIGHT.

AND I ALSO WILL SAY IT'S BECAUSE OF PARENTS THAT THESE POLICIES EXIST.

A LOT OF TIMES, I GET EMAILS AND NOTIFICATIONS FROM PARENTS WHO ARE OBSESSING, WHY DOES THE D.O.E. FEEL THIS IS APPROPRIATE TO TALK ABOUT IN SCHOOL AND WHY DO WE HAVE THESE GUIDELINES TO SUPPORT TRANSGENDER AND GENDER EXPANSIVE STUDENTS.

THE ONLY THING THAT THOSE PARENTS HEAR, THE ONES PUSHING BACK, IS THAT THIS IS LEGAL COMPLIANCE.

WE ARE LEGALLY SUPPOSED TO DO THIS.

THEY DON'T WANT TO HEAR THE IMPACT IT HAS ON YOUTH.

THAT WILL GO IN ONE EAR AND OUT THE OTHER.

A LOT OF TIMES WHAT MAKES THEM UNDERSTAND THAT WE HAVE TO DO THIS IS THAT THERE ARE LAWS IN PLACE THAT SAY WE NEED TO DO THIS.

A LOT OF WHAT I HEARD BOTH OF YOU TALK ABOUT, WHAT IT DEFINITELY RELATES TO ALL KIDS WHO ARE PART OF THE COMMUNITY, BUT IT SEEMED LIKE A LOT OF IT WAS MORE SPECIFICALLY AROUND TRANSKIDS AND KIDS DEALING WITH GENDER IDENTITY.

I'M WONDERING FROM EACH OF YOUR PERSPECTIVES, WHY HAS THAT SEEMINGLY, SUDDENLY BECOME THIS HOT-BUTTON ISSUE THAT PEOPLE WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND FEEL LIKE THEY NEED TO FIX OR SQUASH SOMEHOW.

KALIMA, I'LL START WITH YOU.

I WILL SAY THAT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN -- ONE OF THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GENDER IDENTITY AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS THAT FOLKS LIKE MYSELF -- I'M A SIS GENDER PERSON.

I DIDN'T GROW UP -- I DIDN'T THINK ABOUT MY GENDER, BECAUSE IT WAS SO INHERENTLY NATURAL TO ME, I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT.

PEOPLE WHOSE GENDER IDENTITY MATCHES THE SEX THEY WERE ASSIGNED AT BIRTH, THEY NEVER HAVE TO REALLY ACTIVELY THINK ABOUT GENDER AS A CONCEPT, RIGHT?

WITH SEXUAL ORIENTATION, WE ALL CAN UNDERSTAND THAT, WHETHER OR NOT WE'RE LGBTQ, WE UNDERSTAND ATTRACTION AND LIKING -- HAVING A CRUSH ON SOMEONE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

THAT'S ONE OF THE DIFFERENCES WITH FOLKS -- FOLKS DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND GENDER IDENTITY THE WAY THEY MIGHT UNDERSTAND SEXUAL ORIENTATION.

SO WITH THAT UNDERSTANDING COMES HATRED, COMES BIGOTRY, COMES ALL OF THE NEGATIVE THINGS, INSTEAD OF PROACTIVELY WANTING TO LEARN ABOUT SOMETHING, THEY'RE LIKE, IT'S DIFFERENT SO I REJECT IT.

WITH A LOT OF VISIBILITY INCREASING AROUND THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY, MORE YOUNG PEOPLE ARE COMING OUT, MORE PEOPLE ARE COMING OUT AND SHARING THEIR IDENTITIES WHICH IS AMAZING, BUT WITH THAT COMES THE BACKLASH AND THE PUSHBACK AND THE CRITICISM AND THINGS LIKE THAT.

I FEEL LIKE WITH TRANS IDENTITY, NON-BINARY AND GENDER NON-CONFORMING IDENTITIES, THE URGENCY IS REALLY, REALLY INTENSE RIGHT NOW TO PROTECT OUR YOUNG PEOPLE AND PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST COMING OUT INTO THE WORLD AS THEIR AUTHENTIC SELVES.

MORE SO IN MY PERSPECTIVE, MORE SO WITH YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE NEW YORK CITY D.O.E. THAN LBG, LESBIAN, GAY AND BISEXUAL PEOPLE.

CLARK, WOULD YOU AGREE WITH THAT?

I WOULD AGREE AND I WOULD ALSO ADD THAT IT IS HARDER TO UNLEARN THINGS THAN TO LEARN NEW THINGS.

FOR OUR YOUNG FOLKS WHO ARE HEARING THESE IDEAS AND CONCEPTS FOR THE FIRST TIME, FOR SOME OF WHOM IT DEEPLY RESONATES AND THEY'RE FIGURING OUT WHO THEY ARE.

OTHERS OF WHOM THEY'RE SEEING THEIR FRIENDS COME OUT AND EXPERIENCE THEIR IDENTITIES AND WANT TO BE THERE FOR THEIR FRIENDS.

THEY'RE LEARNING THESE THINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME.

FOR THOSE OF US THAT GREW UP WITH LESS VISIBILITY -- KALIMA IS SPEAKING ABOUT HOW VISIBILITY IS A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD.

THOSE OF US WHO GREW UP IN GENERATIONS WITH LESS VISIBILITY AROUND THESE TOPICS, THERE WAS LESS VISIBILITY AROUND TRANCE GENDER IDENTITIES UP UNTIL FIVE YEARS AGO, TEN YEARS AGO, IF NOT REALLY HEAVILY THE LAST COUPLE YEARS, IT'S HARDER TO GRASP.

YOU SPOKE TO IT SIMPLY IN THE ASKING OF YOUR QUESTION, WE PUSH BACK ON THINGS WE DON'T KNOW.

IT'S HARD TO UNLEARN THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN DEEPLY ENGRAINED IN OUR SOCIETY AND OUR CULTURE AND HOW WE SEE THE WORLD AND HOW WE SEE PEOPLE.

THAT PROCESS OF UNLEARNING CAN BE REALLY HARD.

A LOT OF PEOPLE SIMPLY DON'T WANT TO PUT THE EFFORT IN TO TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN, TO UNLEARN THE THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN ENGRAINED IN THEM AND TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW ABOUT OUR WORLD AND ABOUT INDIVIDUALS THAT, IN FACT, MAY BE VERY CLOSE TO THEM OR PEOPLE THAT THEY LOVE IN THEIR LIFE.

IF YOU LOOK AT JUST THE WAY THAT EVEN THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION HAS DEBUNKED THAT THESE ARE MENTAL ILLNESSES -- THERE HAVE BEEN SO MANY STEPSALITY HIGH LEVELS OF KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE THAT SAY THESE IDENTITIES ARE VALID, ARE REAL, ARE IMPORTANT, AND I THINK A LOT OF FOLKS ARE SIMPLY UNWILLING TO TAKE THE TIME TO WORK WITH THOSE CHANGES AND TO REALLY LEARN.

IT'S PAINFUL.

IT'S HARD TO KNOW THAT SOME FOLKS JUST DON'T WANT TO PUT THE EFFORT IN.

I'M ALSO WONDERING, CLARK, YOU'RE WITH PFLAG NYC BUT IT'S A NATIONAL ORGANIZATION.

ARE YOU HEARING FROM DIFFERENT CHAPTERS AND OTHER STATES WHERE THERE'S A MUCH MORE HOSTILE AGENDA TOWARDS THE COMMUNITY?

YES.

OUR SIBLING CHAPTERS DOWN IN TEXAS RIGHT NOW ARE DEALING WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF PARENTS BEING ESSENTIALLY CRIMINALIZED FOR HAVING CHILDREN WHO HAVE UNDERGONE GENDER MARKER CHANGES.

TEXAS IS SAYING THEY'RE GOING TO INVESTIGATE FOLKS WHO HAVE CHANGED THEIR GENDER ON THEIR DRIVER'S LICENSES OR BIRTH CERTIFICATES.

AND THE PARENTS, IF THEY'RE MINORS, ARE GOING TO BE HELD CULPABLE.

THERE ARE A LOT OF CHAPTERS OF PFLAG IN OTHER STATES AROUND THE COUNTRY WHO ARE REALLY STRUGGLING RIGHT NOW, AND I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR US TO, AS THE NEW YORK CITY CHAPTER, PROVIDE AS MUCH SUPPORT AS WE CAN BOTH FOR THE PARENTS IN THESE OTHER PLACES AND REALLY, AS I WAS SAYING BEFORE, SURROUND OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER WITH COMMUNITY, REMIND OURSELVES NO ONE IS ALONE IN THIS STRUGGLE AND IN THIS FIGHT.

WE ALL NEED TO HAVE EACH OTHER'S BACKS.

KALIMA, I WANT TO ASK YOU, HOW DO YOU -- AT LEAST HOW ARE THE ORGANIZATIONS WITHIN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM THAT YOU WORK WITH, THE ADVOCATES, ET CETERA, HELP THE KIDS ADDRESS ISSUES OF BULLYING?

I WANT TO BE VERY SPECIFIC.

OF COURSE, THERE IS THE VERY PROBLEMATIC BULLYING THAT CAN HAPPEN ONE ON ONE, FACE TO FACE IN SCHOOL.

BUT PERHAPS THE OTHER BULLYING THAT'S MORE TACID, FOR EXAMPLE, SOMEONE MIGHT BE LAUGHING AT A JOKE THAT THEY HEARD THAT, BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT PART OF THE COMMUNITY, THEY MIGHT HAVE FOUND FUNNY IN FRONT OF SOMEBODY WHO MIGHT FIND THAT JOKE TO BE INCREDIBLY HARMFUL OR DANGEROUS, OR SOMEBODY MIGHT BE ENGAGING WITH A CELEBRITY WHO, THEY STILL LIKE FOR THESE OTHER REASONS, BUT THIS PERSON HAS BECOME INCREASINGLY HOSTILE TO THE COMMUNITY AND SAID STUDENT IS PART OF THAT COMMUNITY.

THOSE SUBTLE THINGS WHERE PEOPLE TEND TO FIND REASONS TO BE LIKE, YEAH, BUT IT'S THIS, BUT NOT REALLY THAT.

HOW DO YOU HELP THE KIDS ADDRESS THAT?

SO I WILL SAY THAT PFLAG IS LIKE MY RIGHT HAND WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING SURE THAT STUDENTS FEEL EMPOWERED TO SPEAK UP WHEN THEY WITNESS THINGS LIKE THAT HAPPENING IN SCHOOL, TO KNOW THAT THERE'S AT LEAST ONE ADULT IN THEIR SCHOOL THAT THEY CAN TALK TO ABOUT THIS.

IT'S REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT THAT THEY KNOW THAT.

PART OF MY JOB AND PFLAG'S JOB IS TO MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THE SCHOOL SYSTEM HAS THEIR BACK AND WE'RE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH PFLAG, EVEN DRAG QUEEN STORY HOUR, EXISTS AS D.O.E. PARTNERS TO HELP STUDENTS UNDERSTAND THEIR IDENTITY IS RESPECTED AND PROTECTED AND AFFIRMED AT SCHOOL.

IF YOU EVER HEAR SOMETHING THAT GOES AGAINST THAT, IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS WHAT THE D.O.E. REFERS TO AS HARASSMENT, AND IT NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH AS SUCH.

A LOT OF TIMES, I'M USUALLY GUIDING TEACHERS TO BE VERY SPECIFIC WITH THEIR LANGUAGE WHEN THEY CALL ME AND SAY, I HAVE A STUDENT WHO IS BEING TEASED, AND THE STUDENTS ARE NOT RESPECTING THEIR PRONOUNS OR THEY'RE MAKING FUN OF THEIR IDENTITY OR SAYING 'THAT'S SO GAY' ARE THINGS I CALL IN PASSING.

THEY CALL IT TEASING.

I'M LIKE, NO, ACTUALLY, WHEN IT'S TARGETED AT A PERSON BASED ON THEIR PROTECTED STATUS, INCLUDING GENDER IDENTITY AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION, THAT IS NOW HARASSMENT.

IT'S NOT TEASING.

IF YOU CALL IT TEASING, THE WAY YOU DEAL WITH IT IS GOING TO REFLECT HOW YOU'RE MINIMIZING THE SITUATION.

SO A LOT OF IT IS REALLY EMPOWERING OUR STUDENTS TO UNDERSTAND THAT THESE THINGS ARE NOT OKAY, THEY'RE NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU SAY IN PASSING.

THEY HAVE IMPACT.

YOU NEVER KNOW WHO IS LISTENING.

YOU NEVER KNOW WHO IS BEING AFFECTED BY WHAT YOU'RE SAYING.

A LOT OF TIMES WHEN WE'RE IN SCHOOLS -- CLARK CAN AGREE WITH THIS -- WALKING DOWN THE HALL WE HEAR THESE THINGS.

PEOPLE SAY, I DIDN'T MEAN IT AGAINST THE WHOLE COMMUNITY.

IT'S JUST A SAYING.

BUT WORDS HAVE POWER.

CLARK, AGAIN, YOUR THOUGHTS, ALSO, ON THAT VERY KIND OF PERVASIVE TYPE OF BULLYING THAT SEEMS TO HAPPEN, WHERE I'M NOT NECESSARILY DOING IT, BUT PERHAPS I'M COMPLICIT IN SOMETHING SOMEONE ELSE IS SAYING OR DOING.

YEAH, I AGREE WITH KALIMA.

I THINK PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE THAT IT'S NOT JUST TEASING.

IT IS STILL HARASSMENT.

THE IMPACT THAT IT HAS, YOUNG PEOPLE AS THEY'RE FIGURING OUT THEIR IDENTITY, AS THEY'RE FEELING MORE SECURE IN WHO THEY ARE, AS THEY'RE STARTING TO COME OUT AND FEEL COMFORTABLE SHARING THEIR IDENTITY WITH OTHER PEOPLE IN THEIR LIFE, THEY ARE LOOKING FOR CLUES AS TO WHO THEY CAN TRUST, WHO THEY'LL BE SAFE WITH, WHO WILL LISTEN, AND WHEN THEY HEAR A FRIEND LAUGH AT A JOKE THAT TARGETS WHO THEY ARE, ALL THEY'RE THINKING IS, OKAY, I'M NOT SAFE TO TELL THAT PERSON, THAT PERSON ISN'T GOING TO UNDERSTAND, THAT PERSON ISN'T SOMEONE I CAN TRUST ANYMORE.

I THINK WE DON'T NECESSARILY UNDERSTAND THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEING COMPLICIT WHEN SOMEONE TELLS A JOKE OR WHEN SOMEONE CONTINUES TO BE A FAN OF SOMEONE WHO IS SAYING VIOLENT THINGS AGAINST THE COMMUNITY.

WE NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL WITH OUR LANGUAGE, AS KALIMA SAID, WE NEVER KNOW WHO IS LISTENING.

I TRY TO IMPART THIS MESSAGE TO TEACHERS AND TO STUDENTS, THAT WE NEVER KNOW IF THE PERSON NEXT TO US IS TRYING TO COME OUT AND NOT READY YET.

OR IF THE PERSON NEXT TO US HAS PARENTS WHO ARE A PART OF THE COMMUNITY OR SIBLINGS WHO ARE OR SOMEONE VERY CLOSE TO THEM, RIGHT?

SO IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT, IS THIS TARGETING AN INDIVIDUAL IN THEIR IDENTITY, BUT ALSO PEOPLE THAT THEY LOVE THAT ARE IMPORTANT IN THEIR LIFE AS WELL.

SO IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOT VIEW IT AS JUST SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS IN SCHOOL, JUST A PASSING THING, IT'S JUST TEASING.

IT IS JUST AS SERIOUS AS SOMEONE CALLING SOMEONE A SLUR.

IT HAS THE SAME IMPACT AT THE END OF THE DAY.

I WAS GOING TO SAY, I THINK THAT'S AN EXCELLENT POINT, BUT UNFORTUNATELY WE HAVE RUN OUT OF TIME.

SO WE HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE.

I DO WANT TO THANK BOTH OF MY GUESTS FOR TAKING TIME TO JOIN US.

KALIMA McKENZIE-SIMMS, MANAGER OF THE LGBTQ+ PROGRAMS AT THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US, AND ALSO CLARK WOLFF HAMEL, THE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS MANAGER AT THE ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION P GLOOET FLAG NYC.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE WORK THAT YOU DO.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

ABSOLUTELY.

> METRO FOCUS IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION, AND

©2023 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489