It takes a village: ‘Dear Culture’ talks raising and protecting trans youth

“Being trans is not a choice. It’s something that we live and we feel,” said guest Ethan Randolph

Black Trans Lives Matter Protest Takes Place In Central London
A Black LGBTQ Lives Matter flag flies during Black Trans Lives Matter march on June 27, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images,)

The Pride Month celebration continues at theGrio and this week on the Dear Culture podcast we’re amplifying the voices of and raising visibility and awareness for trans and gender non-conforming folks as they remain one of the populations most vulnerable to violence and discrimination.

In 2019, the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group which tracks fatal anti-transgender violence, released a report naming violence against trans and gender non-conforming people as a national epidemic. 

The organization also said 2021 is a “record-breaking” year for anti-trans legislation, including bans on trans youth in sports, being introduced in state legislatures across the country. With the spotlight growing brighter on issues affecting trans youth, this week we’re asking: Dear Culture, how are you helping nurture the trans child in your village?

Ethan Randolph, a noted Philadelphia barber, father and husband joined hosts, theGrio social media director Shana Pinnock and theGrio managing editor Gerren Keith Gaynor, to talk about his experience transitioning, the community he’s cultivated for himself and how he’s now working to create a safe space for others. 

Protestors in support of transgender rights rally outside the Alabama State House in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

Randolph said as a pre-teen he didn’t have the language or knowledge to communicate to his mother why he felt he might be different, but after educating himself and finding trans representation in the ballroom scene he began transitioning. Although Randolph faced discrimination, intolerance and harassment, he says he’s found support, community and joy within his chosen family, especially his wife, who he describes as his “whole life.” 

“She opened up a whole other realm of acceptance and not having to deal with depression,” said Randolph. “My son and I have experienced the same journey and I go hard for him. I have my wife and I have my three kids and they have my back 100 percent.” 

While there is growing acknowledgement of violence against the trans community, Gaynor pointed out that often trans men are not taken into consideration and as a result are left out of critical conversations around safety and protection for trans folks. Randolph shared his experience with being outed by a neighbor, which damaged his budding career as a barber and even made him the target of violence.  

“I had people who constantly make it their business to come out the door and try to stab at me with knives while I’m cutting hair on my front porch, and try to throw glass bottles at me and my son while we’re standing outside,” said Randolph. “A lot of trans men don’t get the recognition of being abused and being killed and it’s like we don’t exist, but we do exist.”

After experiencing his own trials and tribulations after transitioning, Randolph said it became important to him to create a safe space to do his work and create a welcoming environment for his clientele. 

“I want to provide a place for guys like me, and guys that are non-binary, to be able to come someplace that’s safe and not be subjected to indirect conversations about trans people,” said Randolph. “Whatever gender you identify with, I want you to be comfortable with coming here, getting your hair cut, talking how you want to talk and dressing how you want to dress. I put no restrictions on things.” 

The move to be inclusive and welcoming has paid off as Randolph said his business is once again thriving and he receives support and recognition throughout the community. Before signing off, he had a one last piece of advice for queer folks who may struggle because of their identity: 

“The depression is hard to get past, but if you channel that negative energy from others and put it into something else, I promise you you’re going to be successful and great at everything you do.” 

Tune in Dear Culture, the smart, reliable Black news podcast. Now streaming on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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