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'We are people. We exist everywhere': Being young and trans in Vermont

A transgender flag pin amid rainbow LGBTQ pins and others signaling a person's preferred pronouns.
Matthew Smith
Vermont Public File
As transgender and non-binary communities across the country see increased visibility, they also face ongoing challenges and risks. March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Yesterday was International Transgender Day of Visibility, which was created to celebrate the achievements and perseverance of transgender people across the globe. It’s also an opportunity to raise awareness and visibility about the discrimination and violence that trans people routinely face, including transgender youth.

LGBTQ+ students in Vermont are twice as likely as their heterosexual cisgender classmates to be bullied. And they're more likely to experience mental health issues.

We wanted to hear how Vermont’s transgender youth are feeling, and what visibility means to them.

This piece was produced for the ear. We highly recommend listening to the audio. We’ve also provided a transcript, which has been edited for length and clarity.

'I don't feel fully safe here'

This is Alex Sage Yahm Halberg, who lives in Washington County.

Alex Sage Yahm Halberg: I think that what transgender visibility means to me is an opportunity for every person, no matter their identity, to express who they are, and an opportunity for specifically trans people to share their experiences and to be listened to.

I think that transgender visibility is not just about seeing us and listening to us. But it's also about taking the things that we say and implementing them into the world.

Alex Sage Yahm Halberg
Alex Sage Yahm Halberg
Alex Sage Yahm Halberg

Something Vermonters don't understand about being young and transgender is, I think, that it’s really hard. It's really difficult. I think a lot of people sort of dismiss the issues of transgender people in Vermont and other safer states, because they like to say that it's safer here. And it is. That doesn't mean that it's completely safe. And that doesn't mean that it isn't absolutely horrible, and that it doesn't cause distress. I know that I don't feel safe. I don't feel fully safe here. And I think that people don't really realize that because we are a very left-leaning state. But that doesn't mean that there aren't people here who would prefer if I didn't exist.

Everyone needs to realize that people have their identities and people have their feelings and that it's, it's just who they are. It's not the end of the world that someone is themselves, and it doesn't really affect you very much.

I think what is really beautiful for me about being part of Vermont's transgender community is just how much we all want to help each other. And when you find yourself in a space full of young queer people and young trans people, there are almost always people who are going to make sure that you're doing okay, who are going to make sure that all of your needs, everything is taken care of. And it's such a breath of fresh air to just be in a community where you don't need to hide who you are. You don't need to sort of take a step back and hide your identity.

More from Vermont Public: How a Vermont binder business is helping people feel more at home in their body

'We are people, we exist everywhere'

And now we'll hear from Perrin Dulmer, who lives in Milton.

Perrin Dulmer: Transgender visibility, to me, means just being seen in all facets of life, like we are people, we exist everywhere. And it's not something that should be weird or discriminated against. We're just doing self expression in the same way that you pick to style your hair in blonde curls, I pick to present myself as a female because that's what makes me feel the most confident and comfortable within myself. There is no parent intervention, we're not being indoctrinated by our schools, like people love to say. This was our choice to do this. And that's why we do it.

Perrin Dulmer
Perrin Dulmer
Perrin Dulmer

I do feel very safe in Vermont, I think, definitely in comparison to, like, what other people experience and what I see on the news. Vermont is very safe and has done a very good job of ensuring that all LGBTQ people are protected, especially trans people.

The sense of connection is something that I'd really want to share — like, me and all of the other LGBTQ people I feel like a sense of closeness, even if I’ve not necessarily interacted because I have aspects of them and they have aspects of me.

There's no one brand of expression in both ways relative to, like, the gender expression of a minor. You can be just like accepting subtly, that you can just use the pronouns they want. You can not be mean to them for this simple act of self-expression.

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