.Protecting Trans Youth

Is free speech in Contra Costa County harming transgender kids?

If Lisa Disbrow has her way, she might scare trans-youth back inside the closet. She’s been holding her anti-trans signs in front of a Contra Costa County Elementary School daily since March, when the district displayed the transgender pride flag for the International Transgender Day of Visibility. With days left of the school year, Disbrow remains in place.

Casey, a 26-year-old transgender man from Emeryville, was shamed into silence during his youth by similar messaging in his home state of Tennessee. However, these days he sometimes stands near Disbrow with a sign saying, “Honk For Trans Joy,” along with his partner Elisa Salice, who carries a sign proclaiming, “Protect Trans Youth.”

“I lived in this community for a year, and I have friends here,” Casey said. “I saw hate, fear-mongering and misinformation. We just wanted to counter that and let the kids know that they have support.”

Casey remembers being different from other kids when he was in elementary school, but not fully understanding the difference. Casey identified as a lesbian from the age of 15 until around the age of 23, but that didn’t necessarily encapsulate his experience or sum up who Casey was.

“I knew a few trans people and I kept telling myself, ‘Nope, that can’t be you, that’s too much and that’s too far,’” Casey recalls. “I was afraid that if I lived in that truth, I’d be too queer and too different for people to accept me.”

At 21 Casey began experiencing more of the trans community and embracing what felt like his true self. “That’s when I said, ‘Hey, this is me, I’m trans,’” he said. “I was nervous that people weren’t going to react well, but then the love started pouring in.”

During the interview, Casey pointed out the words “Hormones Don’t cure Depression” on the sign of an anti-trans protester. “They helped me with my depression,” Casey said. “I had to do two years of therapy to make sure that I really had gender dysmorphia before I could begin hormone therapy.”

Even as the display of the transgender flag has passed, Disbrow, often alone and sometimes with a handful of others, remains steadfast in her opposition. She carries and displays signs saying, “Natural Bodies Are Perfect Bodies,” “No One Is Born In The Wrong Body,” “No CHILD Can Consent To Be Sterilized,” “Transitioning IS NOT Suicide Prevention,” “Puberty Is Not A Disease,” “Mental Health Care—NOT Hormones,” “Surgery Does Not CURE Depression” and more.

Disbrow declined to state how long she’d be protesting and requested that the written responses she submitted for this story be deleted. However, in a 2023 interview while she was carrying a sign that read, “Biology Is Not Bigotry,” Disbrow stated, “There are two sexes—male and female—and to say that isn’t to be a bigoted statement, it’s a scientific statement.”

Disbrow declined to state where she resides, but reiterated her right to free speech. “I’m free to disagree with others,” she said. “It’s not violence. It’s a statement of my opinion, based on my reading, my analysis, my investigation—and I’m entitled to do that under the First Amendment.”

Many people are raising their rainbow-colored flags while pondering the ethics of Disbrow’s expression of free speech, which some say is the spreading of misinformation.

Dr. Naomi Breckon showed up carrying a “Doctors Support All Kids” sign, both to counter the negative messaging, to myth bust and to contextualize some of the stats. 

“These signs are negative, and some of them talk about disease and suicide and things that are not appropriate for kindergarten level or first graders, as my daughter is,” Breckon said. “We want to make sure that we support whoever our kids are, and make sure that they have the freedom to become whoever they ultimately will be.”

Breckon also offered some missing context from the signs. “Hormone therapy can be important for both the trans and cis-gendered community,” she said. “It’s been used for postmenopausal women who are on estrogen. Many cis-gendered men are on testosterone and that helps with depression.”

Meera Sreenivasan is a county healthcare professional who stood opposite a man who held a sign saying, “First Do No Harm: Transitioning Is Not Suicide Prevention” directly in front of the school.

“I worry that a sign like that would push someone more towards that really unfortunate outcome as opposed to supporting them and providing them with access to help,” Sreenivasan said. 

Christina Garcia is a clinical psychologist and the parent of a second grader. “Research has shown that supporting people and whatever identity they are aligned with is absolutely suicide prevention and is absolutely mental health care,” she said.

5 COMMENTS

  1. To Lisa Disbrow and her opinion.
    Its the people like you who make our world such a negative, hateful, and scary place.
    God only knows what skeletons you keep in your closet as you pass judgment on others. The idea that you opinion mattress to anyone is this as Ludacris as you holding a sign in front of a school to scare Children.
    40% of all transgendered people attempt to kill themselves. Being transgender is not a disease. It is not a mental illness and is not to be made fun. The impact it has on peoples life’s to be taken lightly.
    I am a transgender woman. I know what it was like to want to die at eight years old, I know what it was like to be miserable as an adult and attempt suicide myself.
    All because of the fear people like you have instilled in our society and our children, as you stand in front of their schools and wave signs of hate. Isolating them even further by demoralizing who they are. Trans people make up one percent of the population on this planet how is it that it offends you so bad, makes you so mad? Mad enough to take time out of your day to make sure that children in that school can read your signs of hate. Teaching our children them generation after generation that it’s OK to pick on the children that don’t fit in. People that are already the underdog in this world. People that are treated as novelties or a joke, discriminated against in every.
    You should be ashamed of yourself so as you sit on your high horse and look down upon Upon people with your lack of Understanding intelligence and empathy, even though you spread your hate and have made people like mines life, almost unbearable. I show you no hate. I will still offer empathetic hand to help pick you up when you get knocked off the very horse you look down from. Let he without sin cast the first stone, and how many stones have you thrown in vain.
    Being transgender is not a choice but choosing to be a bully is. Stop teaching our children. It’s OK to hate one another as if you have nothing that someone else could hate you for.
    This world can be ugly in full of hate, but our universe is a place of balance. Don’t let your opinion in your ignorance Persuade the universe to skip tip the scales against you.

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  2. file:///var/mobile/Library/SMS/Attachments/73/03/9B97BAF3-94E8-41CA-B81E-EF140354E7DE/IMG_8202.JPG

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  3. Hi there!
    The attachment didn’t show up so I copied and pasted to get info.

    It appears that there is a ‘All you need is love’ for all kids on Wednesday morning from 8-8:30 and in the afternoon at 1:20.

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