We celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride month in June each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising.  Pride Month is a time to recognize the issues, challenges, and discrimination the LGBTQ+ community has faced and to celebrate the triumphs.  This podcast episode features an interview with Él Martinez and their mother, Ivylee Martinez, regarding gender identity issues and transgender advocacy.

Él Martinez (they/elle pronouns) is a student activist based out of Worcester, MA.  Now in their senior year at Clark University majoring in Community, Youth, and Education Studies, Él has continued efforts as a community organizer, facilitator, and consultant contributing to the Clark University student organizations of FIRM (Food Insecurity Resistance Movement), a student run food pantry on campus, and The See You Collective, a mutual aid collective for the needy in the Clarkie community.

Él shares the definitions for various gender terms for those unfamiliar:

(Biological) Sex – assigned to a child at birth, most often based on physical, external anatomy.

Gender Identity – the term(s) someone uses to define their gender, ex: male, non-binary, woman, fluid.

Gender Expression – the manifestation of someone’s gender through their appearance.

Transgender – a term used to describe someone who does not identify with the label/biological sex they were assigned at birth.

Cisgender – a term used to describe someone who identifies with the label they were assigned at birth.

Él goes over the use of pronouns (He/She/They) and how it can be difficult and challenging for friends, family, teachers, and acquaintances to get pronouns correct.  Él mentions the best thing to do if you make a mistake on someone’s pronoun is just to fix the mistake and move on with the conversation.   Too many apologies may begin to alienate the transgender person and make them upset or uncomfortable.  

Gender Identity Issues in the Disabled Community

Annette and Él also discuss how those in the disabled community, mainly neurodivergent and autistic, are more likely to be transgender.  Some autistic individuals center their gender identity around their autism and have been key in pushing forward gender acceptance. They also discuss the transgender fear of the healthcare system and the trauma that can occur when they are assigned the wrong gender by their doctors. They feel that sometimes transgender people avoid the treatment they need due to fear of having to explain or correct their gender to their doctor.

Él was forced to become their own advocate and activist due to their school system and their lack of support for Él.  They were harassed throughout their time in high school and felt the school did not do enough research to support them and other LGBTQ+ people.  Él ran for GSA (Genders and Sexualities Alliance) president, won, and served as the GSA president their sophomore through senior year.  While president, Él developed mentorship roles with other students to develop their self-confidence and to let students know it is ok to be themselves.

Él also sponsored the Gender X Bill in Massachusetts which allows people to select “X” as their gender if they do not feel they identify with male or female.  Él identifies as nonbinary and when they realized male or female were the only two choices available when applying for a Massachusetts driver’s license, they decided to do something about it.   Él wrote a letter to Massachusetts Senator Karen Spilka and received a call from her the very next day wanting to support Él in their Gender X effort.    

Accepting Youth As They Are

Él would like to leave us with their advice to youth and parents.  To youth, Él says “you’re perfect just the way you are, it’s ok to explore, it’s ok to change how you identify”.  To parents, Él says to have patience.  Kids may not have the answers to the questions you are asking.  Kids are still learning about themselves and to just listen to them and their needs and accept them as they are.  If you or someone you know does need assistance, please check out your local GSA Genders and Sexualities Alliance) and/or local LGBTQ+ center or group.  You can also contact GLSEN, which works to ensure that LGBTQ students are able to learn and grow in a school environment free from bullying and harassment, or the Transgender Law Center that champions transgender advocacy. 

For information on other topics, please also check out Special Needs Companies. For legal advice, inspiration, and other resources, visit our blog here. Similarly, you can always listen to previous podcast episodes (and be sure to leave us a review), or download our free eBook here. We are always looking for podcast guests as well so please let us know if you or someone you know, has a special needs or disability topic you would like to speak about – Contact Us! 

You can also join our free Facebook community for the disability community, the “Circle of Care,” or watch the webinars and other speaking events on YouTube. The purpose of this community is to create a space for people to be themselves, ask questions and get support and answers, so please share these resources with your friends!

Annette Hines has been practicing in the areas of Special Needs, Elder Law, and Estate Planning for more than 20 years. Ms. Hines brings personal experience with special needs to her practice and podcasts as the mother of two daughters, one of whom passed away from Mitochondrial disease in November 2013. This deep, personal understanding of special needs fuels her passion for quality special needs planning and drives her dedication to help others within the special needs community.