The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund is a proud supporter of The Bryson Institute at the Attic Youth Center. Founded in 1993, the Attic’s goal is to reduce the isolation felt by LGBTQ youth by providing a sense of community and developing programs and services to counteract the prejudice and oppression that LGBTQ youth often face. Quinn's story demonstrates how Attic youth benefit from DVLF support.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Quinn was very early on marked as someone who did not act as the world wanted him to. Born into a body assigned female at birth, Quinn never felt that he could identify as a girl. He was given pink clothing and Barbie dolls, and taken to a place of worship that affirmed that the appropriate track was to become a Godly woman. Quinn always felt uncomfortable in his skin.
During his elementary school years, Quinn learned that to cross beyond the expectations of his gender was to make himself vulnerable to harassment and abuse. For this reason, Quinn chose to remain as “quiet and small” as possible. In class, he did not participate. At lunch, he chose to sit alone.
In high school, Quinn gravitated to the sports community. It was here that Quinn was able to dress comfortably in a “sporty look”, and began adapting his style into one he felt comfortable in. There were a few lesbians on the team. Quinn had known he was attracted to women from a very early age. In finding a lesbian community within the basketball team, Quinn decided to open about his affections towards women, and came out as a lesbian. He decided to write his mother a letter before he left for school one day. When he got home, she confronted him with a slew of questions. Her final conclusion was “This is a phase. You’ll be out of it in no time. I want grandkids and you know queers can’t have kids.” Quinn assured her that it wasn’t a phase and that LGBTQ people are capable of having kids. Despite the hurt he had experienced, Quinn retreated back into himself and finished the school year off well. He made excellent grades, and their basketball team even went to the finals.
In 10th grade, Quinn found out about The Attic Youth Center from a friend. It was at The Attic that Quinn first heard terms like gender identity, gender pronouns, and transgender. In learning the language, and making friends who identified as transgender and gender non-conforming, Quinn finally had the vocabulary to express his feelings. He had always known that he didn’t truly feel female, but for the first time was able to identify and express himself. With the support of his friends at The Attic, Quinn began to explore the men’s clothing section, much to his mother chagrin. He began to ask friends to call him by a nickname. He began wearing a binder under his shirts. He began to participate in The Attic’s Trans Group, a weekly support group for trans and gender non-conforming youth. He felt like himself for the first time in his life.
For the second time in his life, Quinn was confronted with the fear and anxiety of coming out. He decided to come out as transgender to his mother in person this time. Quinn explained what transgender meant, and gave her some information he had obtained from The Attic. It was at that point that his mother decided to disengage from his gender identity and sexual orientation entirely. “Do what you will”, she said “but I’m not having any part of it.”
At the age of 17, during his 11th grade year, Quinn addressed the administration at his school to inform them of his decision to transition. Under the guidance of his therapist, he had made the decision to begin hormone replacement therapy to transition his body to align with his lifelong understanding of himself as a male, and began the process of coming out at school. Unfortunately, Quinn faced heightened levels of emotional and physical harassment because of this. Having told his classmates that he identified as transgender and would prefer to use he and him pronouns, students became curious about Quinn’s body. They would frequently grab at his chest and grab his crotch. When Quinn told his teacher, she told him "The girls are just flirting with you. They think you’re cute; you should be flattered."
The bathroom was another issue. Quinn no longer felt comfortable using the female bathroom. However, when he asked the administration at his school if he could use the male bathroom, he was told “yes, when you grow a penis.” Dismayed, Quinn went to address the issue with his school nurse, whom he identified as the only ally in his school. She stated that he was welcome to use the nurse’s restroom whenever he needed to, but that it was up to the discretion of his teachers to allow him.
This past summer, Quinn slowly began to acknowledge his continued struggles and isolation at school to his peers and staff at The Attic. Initially, he was uncomfortable. But with continuous participation in therapy and transgender group, as well as many Attic activity groups and events, he is feeling supported and doing his best to show up at school every day despite the challenges. The Bryson Institute of The Attic has had conversations with the principal of his school and provided a training for staff and students during the 2013-2014 school year. The Bryson Institute of the Attic is currently working on providing additional trainings at the school during the 2014-2015 school year so that his school can be a safer and more welcoming environment for both Quinn and all LGBTQ youth.
Learn more about The Attic Youth Center