A look into transgender struggles in Tippecanoe County

Skye Brown. (WLFI Photo)
Skye Brown. (WLFI Photo)

TIPPECANOE CO., Ind. (WLFI) — Now that Tippecanoe County has joined Lafayette and West Lafayette in adding gender identity to its Human Rights Ordinance, News 18 takes a look at how a local transgender person feels the amendment may help.

Take a walk in Skye Brown’s shoes and you’ll see, Tippecanoe County isn’t immune to discrimination.

“Sometimes you have to laugh or you’ll just be crying a lot,” said Brown.

It may not always be physical violence.

“I think sometimes Midwest politeness prevents people from physically enacting the way they feel about queer people,” said Brown.

Discrimination is often mental and emotional.

“I really like going into Java Roaster because they are super chill,” said Brown. “And they have a single stall restroom.”

That’s right, Brown cited a restroom as a reason for liking a local hangout.

“I have a lot of effort that goes into finding restrooms where I’m not going to be attacked or harassed,” said Brown.

Again, attacks aren’t always physical.

“Just the staring, especially in restrooms, it can be really intimidating,” explained Brown.

Owner of Java Roaster Sarah Reinert said, “We should be accepting of each other, even when we disagree.”

Reinert created a mural in her coffee shop for strangers to color together. Brown took part in the mural and wrote: “Liberation is a collective struggle.”

“Because it is an amazing statement about the fact that all of our health, wellness and freedom is tied up in supporting each other across differences,” Brown said.

In efforts to support transgender people, here’s some advice straight from the source.

“Asking for people’s pronouns is a really great way to show respect,” said Brown.

If you get the pronoun wrong, don’t get defensive and try to explain yourself.

“It shows the person who is actually hurt by the statement. That the person who caused the mistake is more interested in their intent,” Brown said. “And what they tried to do, than the impact they had on the person.”

Brown understands curiosity but some questions hurt.

“What their gender assigned at birth was or what their physical body looks like, how they have sex,” explained Brown.

It’s really all about education.

“A lot of our struggles as a society come out of fear,” Reinert said. “And when we really get down to the heart of it, the fear comes from just not knowing.”

Brown said local access to health care is a big challenge for transgender people in Tippecanoe County.

“Trans people experience anything from physical or sexual assault from providers to just really incompetent care,” said Brown. “A lot of times people being out in trans is such a distraction to practicing health care that providers don’t know what to do with us.”

Endocrinologists or physicians who can prescribe hormone replacement therapy are sparse in Tippecanoe County, so Brown has to travel to Indianapolis to get desired hormones.

Brown said the trans community has started a website called, Indiana Transgender Network. The site has a number of resources for trans people, such as best places to get medical care.

If you would like to learn more about your local trans community, visit Pride Lafayette, Trans Lafayette or Purdue Trans Resources.

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