I had the pleasure this week of welcoming Asteria Cassett as a guest on my Podcast. She shared with me and my listeners her story of growing up and her struggle with gender identity.
The preconceived idea about what it means to be a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ can have really negative effects on transgender, intersex and gender diverse young people. Its hard enough being a teenager, now add that to not knowing where you belong and no family support to guide you and show you unconditional love.
It was heartbreaking for me when Asteria shares her coming out to family and friends and since then her father no longer speaks to her. It is a known fact that being homosexual, pansexual or transgender is not a choice, but rather the path you were born to be on and live in equality. How any parent can shun their own child because of their sexual identity blows my mind.
I remember educating my children at a very young age when they would ask me why a kid at school chose to be “gay”. I would explain to them that this is not a choice, emphasizing the fact that no one wants to be bullied and made fun of.
I asked asteria when she began to feel different and how she was able to identify as trans. She said she had always kept to herself, was alienated in school, made fun of and her grades suffered because of that. I asked her when she knew that she was transsexual and she said about the age of 12 she began to figure some things out.
Being in her mid twenties, she had access to the Internet and was able to get some of her information there. I expressed to her that growing up I did not have access to the Internet and I can’t imagine being a child in her shoes with no one to ask for guidance. I have no recollect of being taught anything about homosexuality let alone transexuals, pansexuals or any sort of gender identy issues.
After high school, Asteria served in the military and expressed part of her reasoning to join was her yearning for a community to be a part of. For those of you that read my articles and listen to my podcasts on a regular basis, are familiar with my ” I should have”, “I would have” “I could have”, but I didn’t and now it’s too late. That could have been Asteria, as she did what she was raised to do. Asteria studied art, drawing and Autocad in college as well as serving 6 years service to our country in the military. She was married for 3 years to a woman before having the courage to express to her wife what she was going through. The marriage came to an end but today Asteria says they still speak.
Asteria is not one of the victims of the ” I should have” but it’s too late syndrome and although we just met, I am so proud of her. She gathered the courage to embrace her sexuality and stand proud finally able to live her life the way she always wanted, with an entire future ahead of her.
The whole interview stirred so many emotions throughout me. Sadness for her and thousands of youth world wide suffering the pain. I had feelings of anger that there is still prejudice and judment around religion, skin color and sexual orientation.
The solution has to start with our youth and immediately following our interview I began to do extensive research. It was comforting to find a number of non profit organizations fighting for school curriculum to teach gender identity and what end result bullying can cause.
The only way that we’re going to be able to bring awareness to gender identity is by educating our future generations on acceptance of all people regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation.
I reiterate, gender identity it’s not a choice. I can’t even fathom being a teenager in today’s world, which is hard enough and then add trying to understand why you don’t connect with your peers. Bullying and shaming can have lifelong effects. Being on the receiving end of homophobic or transphobic bullying, can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and the lack of interest in learning or striving for a better future.
Her story brought back the memories to me from the young man that I met at Exxxotica, raised as a Jehovah’s witness and his mother asked him not to come home upon discovering he attended an adult oriented trade show.
In addition to our school educating future generations it is imperative that acceptance should carry to the parents as well. When we educate and empower the youth for gender equality we are creating a better future and a safer society, the greater challenge at hand is reversing the damage that has been done to parents who refuse to change their views.
We can all do a little part in this fight. Teach your grandchildren, your nephews, your nieces, brothers, sisters about gender identity. Education has and always will be the biggest factor in creating change.
Till next time