Will M. ’20 wins Human Rights Campaign Equality Award
Congratulations to Will M.’20!
Will received an Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign at the HRC New England gala on Saturday, Nov. 23, in Boston.
The Equality Awards are given to individuals who are aligned with the mission of the Human Rights Campaign: to ensure equality for all Americans by advocating for the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.
Will was honored for his work as a public speaker and advocate for transgender students.
Will received the award in front of a crowd of over 800 people, including MB faculty, staff, students as well as his family and friends.
The complete transcript of his speech is posted below.
Transcript of Will Malloy’s speech
“Thank you. I am incredibly honored to receive this award. I can’t really believe it, especially considering who I was just a couple of years ago. Let me tell you why it’s hard for me to believe. When I first came out, I was incredibly insecure and ashamed of my transgender identity. As a young child, I knew very few people who were not straight, and those I did know were all adults. Furthermore, I knew no trans people whatsoever. In fact, I had been out for over a year before I knowingly met another trans person. I had no representation of happy, healthy, loved trans people. Because I didn’t see any happy trans adults, I half believed that they didn’t exist. I had no concept of what my future would or could look like. Consequently, I was ashamed and even afraid of being trans. Part of me believed that being trans was disgusting, unnatural, and shameful. I could hardly say the phrase “I am transgender,” nevermind publically share my experience with complete strangers.
Experiencing that lack of representation is a significant part of being a trans youth. Most of us grow up without parents or mentors whose lives are a positive model of our own potential futures. We often aren’t raised with an understanding of what it even means to be trans. I felt like I had to be my own teacher and parent at times, seeking out education as I struggled to accept myself. Especially being in school, I felt trapped in one place, unable to escape any potentially unsupportive peers. But I was lucky. My school was and is incredibly supportive. In fact, my school shows the power that institutions have to positively impact people’s lives. I am proud and honored to be joined by several individuals from my school here tonight.
I came out the summer before I started eighth grade, making me the first openly transgender student in the middle school. The school changed all single-stall bathrooms to all-gender bathrooms and instituted policies that stated that students have the right to use gendered facilities that best represent their identity in an effort to create a safe learning environment for all present and future students. Over the past five years, they have continued to work hard at being inclusive. My school’s actions are not just a nice thing to have. They are critical. The school environment can be a life-defining factor for trans youth. Teachers have a lot of control over students’ lives, both through grades and through their management of the classroom. I learned this firsthand when one teacher repeatedly misgendered me for the entire school year, making me and my classmates uncomfortable. The administration supported, defended, and respected me, but that experience demonstrated the magnitude of the impact each and every teacher has on their students. Being trapped in a school environment with the same peers and teachers, potentially for years, can be a frightening and threatening situation.
As I have said, I have been fortunate to have a supportive school where I don’t have to worry about my safety every day. I wish that were true for all students.
That shame and fear I felt when I first came out started to dissipate when I began to tell my story. Storytelling is a transformative experience, both for the teller and for the listeners. I deeply believe that storytelling builds empathy and that empathy is the root of understanding, change, and eventually, equity. I saw this initially by getting involved with theatre, and I quickly learned that empathy and stories have the power to influence all facets of life. The process of explaining my journey to others has helped me better understand my own experience. Simultaneously, I have seen how others’ preconceived notions and stereotypes about trans people have shifted as they have met and gotten to know me as an individual, not just as a trans person. I now understand the power of sharing my story. I may not have seen the representation of people like me when I was younger, but I now get to be a part of the movement that provides representation for other youth and elevates trans voices.
To be clear, I know that my ability to do this is a privilege. I am able to because I am white, because I am regularly read as male, and because I am surrounded by a loving and supportive family. I could not do this without my parents and my brother. Mostly, for me, being a trans youth is being a normal high school student. I have good days and bad days; successes and failures. All teenagers face challenges. Some of mine just happen to do with being trans. Many trans youth do not have my experience. Many cannot safely come out. By advocating for trans rights, standing up for those who lack critical support systems, and creating positive communities, I know that more young people can have experiences like mine. This is why I am proud to be visible. Thank you.”