The Fall Issue

Massachusetts Affirmed My Humanity As Black Latinx Trans Teen

This victory still feels surreal. After months and months of sharing my story, connecting with people, having mindful conversations, educating families and friends, and knocking on strangers’ doors, we finally did it.

My name is Ashton Mota. I’m a 14-year-old high school freshman. I live in Lowell, Massachusetts and attend an elite private school that my mom, Carmen, fought like hell to get me into. I am a person of faith. I am both Black and Latinx (yes it is possible — look up “intersectionality”).

I love to play basketball, and listen to music (specifically J. Cole). I am on the speech and debate team, so don’t argue with me because it won’t end well for you. I enjoy hanging out with my friends and aspire to pursue a career in law. I also happen to be transgender. As you can see, being trans isn’t the only thing that defines me; it’s but one part of who I am.

However, upon learning that I’m trans I am often stripped of my humanity. I’m no longer viewed as the promise for the future; instead, I’m seen as an issue that needs to be handled. I’ve seen this dynamic play out before my eyes, as my mom has to go toe-to-toe with my school administrators while navigating a minefield of anti-blackness.

Let me be clear: Transgender people are not a burden, and we are not an issue or problem that needs to be handled. We are the salt of the earth and we make our communities better!

It’s not lost on me that as a public face of Yes of 3, I represent thousands of transgender youth of color who haven’t been as lucky as I have been to have a mother who not only affirms me, but is also willing to fight and advocate alongside me.

As a trans student of color, these struggles are real. My mother and I often have to deal with layers of compounded discrimination, sometimes even within the queer community. The stats don’t lie. Whether it’s homelessness, employment discrimination, incarceration, HIV infections, or violence, the brunt of the burden is carried by trans people of color, and we rarely make space for these voices.

To those youth of color who do not have the ability right now to take that step to be visible whether because of safety or cultural reasons, I SEE YOU! You are not alone and I will fight for your right to be seen and heard.

If there is one message I want to send today it is a message of love and kindness. We need to move away from the conversation centered on rights and recenter our conversations on humanity. Trans people are worthy of protection because I am human. We enrich our communities and make this world better. If you are a person of good faith, you believe in justice and equality for all people.

On behalf of all of us young transgender people in Massachusetts, I want to thank everyone who found it in their hearts to do the right thing and vote “Yes” on 3.

But I also know there is still a lot of work to be done, especially in local communities like Lawrence, where the majority voted No on 3. Transgender youth of color continue to carry the brunt of the burden.

To my peers, please know I am committed to continue to use my voice and make our presence known.

This win means that I have the right to exist, that I matter. It also means I’m able to go back to being a teenager and focus on my education and having fun with my friends. It was hard to focus and concentrate in school with so much uncertainty up in the air.

These results have convinced me that love and good is stronger than hate. The message is loud and clear: we the people of Massachusetts have no space for discrimination.

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