Being themselves in South Dakota

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — KELOLAND News brought you many reports on South Dakota legislation that would have impacted transgender kids. Tonight, we focus on what transgender kids themselves have to say.

16-year-old Alex Rambow’s pronouns are he and him. The high school sophomore says that he was incorrectly assigned the female sex at birth. For Rambow, it is difficult being a young transgender person in South Dakota.

“It is a nightmare because we are constantly under attack with these solutions but there is no problem, they’re just making these things to make our lives just a nightmare,” Rambow said. “It’s horrible going to school every day and having people just break you because you can’t be who you are, and it’s so uncomfortable and just, it hurts.”

It leaves him not liking what others might do without a second thought.

“That’s why I hate going to school every day, I hate going out in public places just ’cause of all this hate,” Rambow said.

17-year-old Elliot Vogue graduated from high school in January. His pronouns are he and him. He, too, says that he was incorrectly assigned the female gender at birth. He also does not have good things to say about life in the state as a young transgender person.

“If you pay attention to the legislation, it’s not great,” Vogue said. “Even just this year, it’s been so bad with anti-transgender bills, and that’s just the government part of it, I guess of our own state government telling us that hey, you’re not wanted here, we don’t like you. Just leave.”

How someone receives you can carry a lot of weight.

“I mean, there have been times where people have correctly gendered me, and then realized I was transgender and went out of their way to misgender me after that,” Vogue said. “It’s not great.”

13-year-old Kris Wilka is in seventh grade. His pronouns are he and him. He was assigned the female gender at birth.

Dan Santella: Was that gender which you were assigned at birth, was that incorrect?

“Very much so,” Wilka said. “My mom, I was, whenever, these questions come up in interviews, I always think back to what my mom said, which was, what they assigned, what may be correct for my genitalia, but it’s not correct for what’s between my ears.”

He says to be young and transgender is South Dakota can be quite difficult.

“I mean, I’m lucky to have a supporting family and to have friends that mostly understand and accept me, but you know, for some people it can be really hard,” Wilka said. “They might not have what I have and that’s, it’s hard.”

He shares a look into his future.

“I know I’m going to change it,” Wilka said. “I’m going to be getting, I could possibly be getting top surgery soon, and in the future, when I’m older I’ll be getting my genitalia surgery.”

Dan Santella: You speak so frankly about such personal and complex issues.

“I mean, I’ve dealt with it, you know?” Wilka said. “I’ve had all these things said to me, I’ve had people call me a disease, I’ve had people call me by the wrong pronouns, even though I adamantly tell them, it’s he and him. I’ve had people call me a girl.”

So much coverage involving the word transgender has zeroed in on legislation or politicians. Elliot, Kris and Alex are sharing what it is like to be them- the people they are.

“I think what people really need to understand is we’re people like anyone else, we’re just taking the extra mile to be ourselves and just live normal lives,” Rambow said. “People just need, it’s, I love this phrase that I saw, it’s, I understand I, that I don’t understand, but I stand with you.”

“Spreading a message of hate and spreading such ignorance and transphobia does affect trans people one way or the other, it gets back to us by sending out a message that it’s okay to treat trans people like garbage, and it’s not,” Vogue said.

“We’re still human, we’re just like everyone else,” Wilka said. “We have feelings, we have emotions, we can get angry, we can get sad, we can get super excited, and we’re not diseased. That’s one thing that I’ve heard a lot. We don’t have a disease.”

There is a direct way to better understand someone’s world, if they’re up for sharing.

“Talk to someone, get to know their story, ’cause not everybody’s going to be the same,” Rambow said.

You can learn about The Transformation Project here.

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