Texas Families Talk Back On Trans Discrimination: Alex Kinmore and Laurie Johnson
Alex Kinmore, 16
Laurie Johnson, full-time mom
Socorro ISD, El Paso
Alex Kinmore: I figured it out, maybe two years ago. I didn’t come out until last July, and I guess it’s been kind of hard to accept because it’s a very weird feeling that you don’t really understand unless you know about it. Unless you know about the term transgender. So I didn’t know about it until maybe three years ago, and even when I learned about the term, I didn’t think that could be me because it felt — it seemed like I had to commit to it because there’s a lot of body changes you go through when you’re trans. So it’s been kind of a recent thing for me too, just accepting it.
Laurie Johnson: I’d say this past year he’s been the happiest I’ve seen him in the last four years, so I think he’s got it figured out.
How did you first find information that helped you understand what was going on?
AK: The internet. I started an LGBT Instagram account like two years ago, and it was through that account that I learned a lot of the terms that I know now. That was basically how I figured it out. I watched a video of a trans guy — he has a video of him transitioning. He was like one year on testosterone, so he had a video documenting all the changes. I watched the video and that was when I actually realized that was what I wanted.
How do you feel about what Texas officials have been saying about transgender students?
LJ: I’m angry about it. I think they’re discriminating against trans teens. I mean, where do they think trans people have been going to the bathroom for years? It’s unnecessary — just trying to get people afraid, and it’s silly, and it makes me angry that they’re not more accepting.
Has your school accommodated your needs, or not?
AK: At my school, I’ve been using the guys’ bathroom for the past year, and then I thought I should bring it up to my school, like the principal, and they didn’t really have an answer for me. They didn’t tell me what the specific policy was. I go to a pretty big school, so no one has said anything, and it was only when I actually brought it up to the vice principal that they said that I can’t use the guys’ bathroom, I have to use either the girls’ bathroom or the nurse’s office, which isn’t really practical, so I just use the guys’ bathroom anyways. But that’s what they told me.
LJ: A lot of people at the school don’t know that Alex was a girl because he’s new to the district.
AK: Yeah, and they address me as “he,” and no one would know.
LJ: So if he was going to go to the girls’ bathroom, it would be really odd.
Are there any other ways that your teachers or principals have supported or not supported you?
AK: My teachers are actually very supportive. They all call me Alex and they say “he.” It’s only a problem when there’s a sub and on the roster is my birth name. But, yeah, my teachers and classmates — well, I don’t really know how my classmates feel about it because no one really knows that I’m trans. But most people say “he,” the people that do know say “he.”
What do you want our readers to know about trans students that you think people get wrong?
AK: I just want people to know that there are way more trans people than they think. There are way more trans people in the world than what is being portrayed. Even if it’s only 1 percent of the population, that’s like, I don’t know, thousands of people.
LJ: Millions. There’s a lot of people out there. And I just want people to be more accepting, especially after what happened in Orlando. It’s sad and heart-breaking, and the trans kids, along with the whole entire community, they’re strong people, they’re super brave people. They have to be. I’m hoping that someday it’s not gay marriage, not gay people, just people — they’re just people. They just wanna use the bathroom — that’s it. So the whole thing is silly.
If you could have your way, what would Texas officials be doing instead of policing bathroom use?
LJ: I think they could be supportive. There could be gender-neutral bathrooms in the schools. Like a lot of companies are starting with the gender-neutral bathrooms; I think that’s a step in the right direction.
AK: Maybe focus on actual sexual predators instead of making an issue of something that’s not even an issue. And a lot of my trans friends have actually been assaulted. One of my trans friends was forced to use the guys’ restroom because they said that she had to, and she was actually assaulted in the guys’ bathroom.
LJ: Right, transgender people are much more likely to be the victim of assaults rather than the perpetrator.
AK: A lot of these lawmakers think they can tell who’s transgender. … But if you’ve seen a lot of transgender people, you know that you can’t tell at all. You can’t tell their birth sex. Especially with trans guys. Often, you just can’t tell.
[Photography by Mark Lambie]
Read interviews from four other Texas parents and trans kids speaking out against discrimination here.