Walking out for Trans Students: “I’m hyper vigilant because I want to make sure I don’t get shot”

Teen contributors (from left to right): Lila Chiles, Ahmad Abdur-Rahman, Camryn Salter, Frankie W., Esete G., Channing Russell. (photos courtesy of subjects)

TheGrio reached out to African-American teens across the country to share their thoughts on the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, the gun control debate and why they are participating in the national school walkouts. Frankie W. is a senior at a high school in Connecticut.

A young individual searching for identity, belonging, answers, and a future should not have to begin that journey with news of a hate crime. However, that’s exactly how my journey began: A young teen sitting in a workshop on violence, hearing story after story of hate crime after hate crime. This is not at all uncommon; transgender teens everywhere have experiences with news stories or class discussions that force the thought into their mind that maybe the world might not be 100 percent on their side. 

This mentality, often found in transgender youths, impacts us is so many ways, inserting a bit of fear in even the most tolerant of places. Including, but not limited to walking around downtown during an actual Pride Fest, making sure to keep one eye behind us at all times. It makes us hyper vigilant the second we hear a balloon pop or a confetti cannon because we need to make sure we’re not about to get shot.

Sometimes, I am able to tolerate it. This mindset is a necessary evil; it’s one that keeps me safe in questionable moments, and prevents unnecessarily risky behavior. But moments like the Parkland shooting make me realize just how ridiculous it is that we need to live in constant fear. These incidents call into question the circumstances that allow these hate crimes to happen, and also give us a gateway to change these circumstances.

Most importantly, incidents like the Parkland shooting finally give the youth a chance to speak our mind about issues that affect us. We can finally do something to show those in power that their “thoughts and prayers” do nothing to calm our racing minds. We can do something to show them that trying to keep everyone happy won’t work, and that they need to act in favor of the security of their constituents. 

These national school walkouts give every single teen across the nation a way to show our support to each other and to those fighting against the archaic laws that allow us to be brutalized. This walkout gives every teen across the nation a way to fight against the inactivity of the legislators in office who accept millions of dollars from the NRA and tell us that there’s nothing they can do to end this. This walkout gives everyone, no matter whether they are rich, poor, white, black, cisgender, or transgender an equal opportunity to say that we’re done being pushed around.

On March 14th, I am getting up and leaving my class for 17 minutes. Not just to stand in solidarity with my fellow activists, and not just to send a message to the legislators. I am leaving my class for 17 minutes to honor the 17+ victims of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Enough is enough. 

READ MORE FROM OUR SPECIAL SERIES:

Walking out for Chicago: “I witness the cycle of lives taken by gun violence and I will not back down”

Walking out for Philando Castile: “Even the illusion of holding a firearm as a black person can get you killed”

Walking out for Peace: “Instead of focusing on my education I worry about my life”

Walking out for Family: “Hopefully my uncle’s passing serves as inspiration for gun reform”

Walking out for Safety: After being shot at for refusing a man’s advances this teen is fighting for change

Walking out for Trans Students: “I’m hyper vigilant because I want to make sure I don’t get shot”

To continue the conversation on National School Walkout Day, check out TheGrio’s social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #Iwalkbecause.

PHOTO CREDIT: (from left to right) Lila Chiles, Ahmad Abdur-Rahman, Camryn Salter, Frankie W., Esete G., Channing Russell. (all photos courtesy of subjects)

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