By Molly Jaben, contributor
Auslyn Davis appears to be just like every other college-aged woman, except for one thing. Auslyn used to be Austin.
“When I was attending Mars Hill, people there are a little bit more close-minded, so I was treated by professors and students kind of like an ‘other,’” said Davis, who attended the Baptist university in Madison County from 2011-2013.
Roughly 38 percent of LGBT+ youth report suffering physical violence from their parents as a result of their sexual identity, according to the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network. A Lambda Legal study shows 26 percent of youth must leave home due to their sexual or gender identity.
“One day I came back from math, and I went to my door and there was a used condom stretched over the doorknob, and they had written ‘fag’ on my door in chalk,” said the 23-year-old student.
A study by GLSEN reveals 90 percent of LGBT+ students hear anti-LGBT+ remarks at school.
“There is more general opposition to LGBT rights in Southern states compared to the rest of the country. You don’t have to look any further than polling numbers to see that that’s true,” said Lindsey Simerly, campaign manager of Campaign for Southern Equality.
The Campaign for Southern Equality focuses mainly on Western North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.
“In Alabama, for example, it is still illegal to talk about homosexuality in any way at all in the public school system, especially in sex education” Simerly said. “There are still several states that allow reparative therapy.”
Reparative therapy refers to a psychotherapy aimed at changing a person’s homosexuality based on the view that homosexuality is a mental disorder.
“A lot of stuff for youth is much more in the home. Do they get kicked out when they come out? Do they have a good support network around them? Are they in a school system that supports them or where it’s banned for them to talk about homosexuality?” the Asheville City Council candidate said.
According to GLSEN, 84 percent of transgender youth report verbal harassment at school due to their sexual orientation or gender preference.
“My kindergarten teacher is the one who brought it up. She was showing concern,” Davis said. “My parents were accepting, but behind closed doors I heard my mom say that I should probably go see a psychiatrist, but this isn’t something that can’t be changed.”
Davis identifies as a demisexual, intersex individual, she says.
“A demisexual is an individual that seeks out emotional attachment to others rather than a physical one. Intersex means that externally I have a penis, but internally I have a cervix, uterus and ovaries.”
The Youth Suicide Prevention estimates nine percent of high school students identify as transgender or actively question their gender preference.
“There is always going to be a certain percentage of the community who oppose equality, and unfortunately youth are perceived as fairly easy targets,” said Jim Faucett, the executive director of Youth Outright, a LGBT+ youth outreach program located in Asheville.
LGBT+ youth account for 30 percent of suicides each year in the United States, according to studies at the University of New Hampshire.
“The biggest problems we see facing queer youth are bullying, isolation, and the lack of support from adults,” Faucett said. “The transsexual community has an even harder road to hoe and an even greater need for a safe place.”
Discrimination remains prevalent in our communities, but it is changing.
“My little girl, who just turned two last weekend,” said the 31-year-old. “That means when she is in elementary school it’s not going to be like, your mom and her partner, there won’t be any questions, we’ll just be her parents. We will just be a family, as boring as anyone else’s family.”
Currently, almost 3 million LGBT+ couples have children, according to studies by The Williams Institute.
“When it comes down to it, I only get this life. So it doesn’t matter if I’m nervous or not, I’m going to do what I want to do,” Davis said. “That’s my motto: there is always a sense of hope.”