Trans Youth Support Network
How do you confront the issue that many of us live in a gender binary society? (It’s a good term—hold on, here comes the definition.) A society that is gender binary classifies sex and gender into two distinct and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. It can create social boundaries that discourage people from crossing or mixing gender roles, or from creating a third form of gender expression altogether. It can also manifest prejudices and a lack of safety for gender non-conforming, intersex, transgender people and communities.
The Trans Youth Support Network (TYSN) challenges misconceptions about transgender and gender non-conforming youth in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. TYSN’s mission is to promote racial, social, and economic justice for trans and gender non-conforming youth, with the freedom to self-define gender identity and expression. Through community building and organizing, training and connecting youth-serving organizations, TYSN creates broader knowledge and understanding of the issues transgender and gender non-conforming youth face, while improving access to services for transgender and gender non-conforming youth in the community.
Located in Minneapolis, TYSN was formed in 2007 in response to several incidents of violence targeting young, transgender women of color in Minneapolis, and a multi-year trend of increased bias and hate crime activity throughout Minnesota. These crimes were not being reported to the police or media for fear of a lack of understanding and support. After a series of community meetings with young people and adult allies, TYSN was formed to end this violence, improve community safety and increased access for young trans and gender non-conforming people, and develop a mechanism of accountability in the metropolitan area.
TYSN is “committed to creating a world where trans and gender non-conforming youth have the freedom to self-define and express their genders without fear of violence, discrimination, or harassment,” said TSYN Executive Director Ryan Li Dahlstrom. In just three years, TYSN has built a strong network collaborative of individuals and organizations, increased knowledge and awareness around the issues of homelessness, poverty, and racism facing transgender and gender non-conforming youth, and engaged an empowered core of transgender young people in its leadership. Dahlstrom believes that TYSN has been able to reach these milestones because the people involved with TYSN are very passionate about their work. This passion has also played a role in encouraging leadership in the community. “A good leader is someone who can move people and inspire people to act and engage,” said Dahlstrom.
TYSN is a leader in local efforts to create a community where transgender youth are allowed full expression and organizational support. With network member organizations in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Robbinsdale, and Excelsior, TYSN provides training, knowledge, and resources to help local shelters, youth agencies, and health clinics become more accessible to and supportive of transgender and gender non-conforming youth. TYSN is bringing transgender youth together as a community, and has created a network of young adult leaders that are speaking out on behalf of transgender youth to create change. Together, youth organizers and agency leaders are creating accountability in legal and social service systems to directly address the gender based violence and ignorance facing transgender and gender non-conforming communities.