A Chandler teen describes the impact of the state's anti-trans legislation
Two out of seven bills that target trans kids and the broader LGBTQ+ community have made it through their committees. What impact do these bills have on the youth their sponsors claim to want to help?
Last week, both the senate Education and Judicial committees moved forward with two anti-trans bills that would directly effect students and teachers who try to teach about gender identity issues within their curriculum.
Both the bills, SB1001 and SB1005, are likely to be vetoed once they reach Governor Katie Hobbs’ desk, but their mere existence has made a direct impact inside schools.
This past Sunday, January 22, more than 100 protesters showed up at the state Capitol to protest against the two bills as well as a package of other anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that’s been proposed by the state’s far-right “Freedom Caucus.”
Among the protesters and speakers was Kanix Gallo, a teenaged activist from Chandler, Arizona who has actively campaigned within his school and his community for more trans acceptance.
Among the suggestions by teens at the protest was simple: listen to them.
So, LOOKOUT caught up with Gallo over the phone, and we’re publishing our full Q&A below, to hear what’s at stake in his own words.
The interview below has been edited for brevity and clarity.
LOOKOUT: Thanks for taking your time to talk to us, Kanix.
KANIX: No, thank you.
LOOKOUT: So, I guess we could probably just start from the top. Who are you?
KANIX: So, I’m Kanix Gallo. I’m 15 and a sophomore and I go to Chandler High School.
LOOKOUT: So talk to me a bit about your coming out story.
KANIX: So, I am a trans male, and born female. I originally knew I was trans when I reached about fifth grade, which is when I started saying to my mom you know, “I don't feel like a girl, what am I?” I used to tell her that I enjoyed hanging out with the boys more, and that I was one of the boys. And of course, at that time—at that age—I never knew what trans meant, or even that trans was a thing. And so I used to just go by the term tomboy, because that’s what my mother told me.
LOOKOUT: When did you start thinking it was more than that?
KANIX: It was around seventh grade when I did some more research on the LGBTQ+ community, and found that the term queer associated with how I felt, identity wise. And that's also when I was first introduced to the term “trans.” And it resonated with me.
LOOKOUT: What did you do with that information?
KANIX: I came out to my mother as trans.
KANIX: She basically told me that I wasn't trans and that I didn't know myself as well as she knew me. And so I kind of kept quiet throughout seventh grade. Near the end of seventh grade is when I realized, like, I can't hide who I am.
LOOKOUT: But did you use different pronouns at school?
KANIX: No, I was actually way too scared to tell anyone after that, because of how how big of a reaction my mother had.
LOOKOUT: Okay, go ahead, continue.
KANIX: So, I started a diversity club at my school in eighth grade, because I realized that we needed to create a safe space for students that also had the same experience with their parents after coming out. And after I started that club, I became a lot more openly queer, and I wasn't scared of hiding who I was anymore.
LOOKOUT: How’d that go?
KANIX: It was an amazing time. I was able to be out to my teachers. And I was able to use my preferred name and pronouns with them. It was around high school, when I started my freshman year, is when I really started to get backlash from my peers, and even some of my teachers, I still get backlash from them. That’s when I kind of realized how discriminatory our schools are. And that's actually what prompted me to start doing everything that I do, in regards to my activism.
LOOKOUT: Let’s just take a step back real quick. So you said you were kind of afraid to live your true self, but you still had this inkling to start this diversity club, right? What was the support system you had inside of the school that made you feel like you could do that.?
KANIX: There was actually my seventh-grade English teacher, her name was Miss Happy. But her classroom had queer flags, and it was just an openly safe space there. And she's actually who I chose for the sponsor of the club. And she was definitely the one who helped me feel the safest being at school. I felt if anything happened, I could immediately go to her. And she would help me out in whatever way I needed.
LOOKOUT: But that changed in high school?
KANIX: Making the switch between middle school and high school was scary already. But that’s when I was also met with discrimination for who I was. A couple teachers refused to use my name or pronouns and I had to talk to the administration about it. And admin was not always the kindest about said situations.
LOOKOUT: So, one of the sponsors of these bills says this is a student safety bill, because parents should know what what their children’s pronouns are. He says that they should know if their child is transgender, and it's only to the benefit of the student. Do you think this bill would have helped you feel safe at home?
KANIX: So, luckily, I have now come out to my parents. We've gotten to a point where they'll use my preferred name, not my preferred pronouns yet, which is okay, because I am making progress. Right? But if this bill had been around when I first started telling my friends and my teachers about my pronouns, I would have gotten a ton of backlash from home. And I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety around the same time I came out for the first time. And I feel like, things would have been so much worse for me if I hadn't been out to my parents, and they found out that way. I also know quite a few people who have been kicked out because they're trans or they're clear.
LOOKOUT: But to that point—the sponsors also say these bills also provide an opportunity for Child Protective Services, for example, to be involved if a child is at risk of being kicked out.
KANIX: So, being someone who has dealt with Child Protective Services before with family matters, they don't always take into account how the child feels. And I've had a couple other family members who have gone through Child Protective Services. And the system sometimes just isn't the best. It's a lot on the student. It's insane how much it can affect them later on in their life.
LOOKOUT: But I want to address another issue that is commonly brought up against pronouns and trans issues for students—it’s the idea that changing pronouns or the entire conversation around transgender students is that adults are sexualizing students. What’s your take on that?
KANIX: So I do a lot of student activism, and I host a lot of protests. And of course, most of the time, we do have counter protesters who bring that up. And, personally, I don't understand the connection with sexualization and a change in gender. Because, personally, I was told that I wasn't transgender my entire life. Still, by some people, I'm told that I'm not transgender. And I actually found out the term transgender on my own, and researched it a ton, on my own. No one pushed it on me. There were no adults telling me that I was transgender, it was always the opposite.
LOOKOUT: Where do you feel safest right now?
KANIX: Um, honestly, I feel safest with the organizations that I work with. Being in a group with them, or being anywhere with them makes me feel safest. Things have gotten better at home. So, I do feel safe there, as well. But at school, it's—it's kind of by the day. I never know, is someone going to discriminate against me at school? If someone's gonna leave me alone? It's kind of scary going to school and being openly trans and gay. And running the (Gay Straight Alliance) club at my school makes it even worse, because everyone knows that I run the GSA club. You can't really hide in that sense.
LOOKOUT: What kind of message do you have for people who are just kind of on the fence, and maybe don't quite understand the repercussions of these kinds of bills? What kind of message would you want to send to them?
KANIX: The message I really want to send is listen to students. A lot of these bills are being introduced by people who haven't been in school for quite a while. And so things are completely different. People don't listen to students, because they think we're too young to understand these things. These bills are directly effecting us, and only we can understand how badly it does. And parents who are on the fence, or even those who are for the bills, they should take a minute and have a conversation with a trans student. Have a conversation with a supportive teacher who has trans students in their classroom. Take a minute to listen to the educators and the students who this bill will directly affect.
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