the voice and vision of a new generation
Image Credit: Seventeen

I was publicly trolled for being non-binary. Here's what happened.

June 29, 2017

TW: transphobia, bullying, suicide

My name is C Mandler. I am non-binary and transgender. My pronouns are they/them/theirs and as I’ve said before and will proudly say again: my pronouns are non-negotiable. Some people have a problem with that... and are sending my transgender friends and me messages of hatred and threats of physical violence because of it. I ask that you read my story...

Recently, I was approached by Seventeen to participate in a video series showcasing the diverse range of identities of LGBTQ youth. I was honored to have an opportunity to speak up for the community that means the world to me. I was proud that a mainstream media outlet like Seventeen was profiling LGBTQ youth like me and my fellow GLAAD Campus Ambassadors.

Seventeen tells the stories of young people like Gavin Grimm, the trans student and national hero who sued his school district for the right to use a bathroom concurrent with his gender identity; like Jazz Jennings, star of I Am Jazz, which gives a candid and beautiful look into the life of a trans girl and her family in Florida; and Kenneth Weishuhn and Jadin Bell, who committed suicide within a year of one another after each grappling with serious bullying rooted in their openly gay sexual identities.

Seventeen’s commitment to inclusive storytelling is part of a larger movement of major media outlets showcasing the experiences of queer youth. The videos Seventeen released cover a variety of topics, including coming out, advice to teens, what pride month means to us, and most recently, a video discussing the lived experiences of four non-binary identified GLAAD Campus Ambassadors. When the video was released, the Campus Ambassadors and I were so excited to have an opportunity to better inform viewers about the gender spectrum, common misconceptions about non-binary and transgender identities, and the ability to explore gender identity through finding identifiable pronouns. Check out the video below:

I think it is easy to forget how much animosity towards LGBTQ people there is when people like me attend progressive schools, and have amazing networks of friends and family, chosen and given, to support us in our journey to not only figure out who we are but also make sure others feel safe and comfortable in their respective quests to do the same.

At my small liberal arts college in upstate New York, professors have sent kind and validating emails of apology after misgendering me in class; friends who understand that though C isn’t my legal name yet, it is my name. I am lucky to have such an unfathomable amount of love in my life, but even this love doesn’t protect from the sometimes harmful nature of the Internet.

When I woke up on Tuesday, there were 200 comments on the Seventeen video, entitled “Trans Students Explain Why Pronouns Are Important.” Below is a sampling of the top comments featured on the post:

Since then, Seventeen and their amazing digital team have been monitoring the comments to rid the video of the hateful vitriol that clearly violates their community standards. However, I woke up this morning to over 3,000 comments on the video. While some were supportive, most looked like this:

The video was also shared over 3,300 times, with some adding their own commentary that even included threats of physical violence:

Many of these comments are ignorant and straight up false, but the problem is that this harmful rhetoric isn’t merely Internet nonsense. In a world where LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of mental health issues, sexual assault, violence, and suicide, these sorts of comments translate into real-life violence.

2016 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people and these rates are only continuing to climb. Fourteen transgender women of color have been killed in the U.S. this year, with the most recent victim, 17-year old Ava Le’Ray Barrin, having been killed earlier this week. Knowing that remaining closeted as transgender is too often a mechanism for survival, these statistics are conservative and only include women who are publicly out as transgender.

I am willing and able to be visible and take Internet hate if it means that a young non-binary trans kid growing up closeted knows that someone is fighting for them, but not everyone can stomach the kinds of awful bigotry being spewed in the world - and they shouldn’t have to.

According to The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24. Additionally, the rate of suicide attempts is four times higher for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth than straight youth. 40% of trans adults have also reported attempting suicide and 92% of these individuals have attempted before the age of 25.

The type of cyberbullying seen in the comments of the Seventeen video is happening is too prevalent and visible on the Internet to properly contain and can be deadly for some LGBTQ youth.

I know a lot of people who watched that video and even some people reading this post will say ‘it’s not that serious,’ or ‘they’re just stupid video comments.’ But it is critical for all people to know that sometimes, inaccurate, rude comments aren’t just comments. They are expressions of hatred that further the agendas of those who assault and murder trans youth. They are ignorant statements that make millions of LGBTQ kids feel so unloved in a society they don’t think will ever accept them.

GLAAD is asking the next time you see this kind of hate online, stand up for those directly affected by it. You can go to our video posted on Seventeen's page and add your message of kindness. The few comments on the video that were supportive and encouraging were such small acts of support that made me and my fellow GLAAD Campus Ambassadors feel better in the face of so much hate.

Offer yourself as an ear to LGBTQ youth who are struggling to assert their gender and sexuality in such a contentious political era. Love the queer and trans people in your life because everything else aside, it keeps us alive.

To all those who are struggling: we see you and we love you. You are strong and powerful and beautiful. We are here for you - we are here with you and we will never stop fighting for you.

the voice and vision of a new generation