Josh Crumley's journey of self-discovery
as 'transgender' means being true to his identity
from his dreams of becoming a lawyer specializing in LBGT
rights, Josh has been playing the guitar in his free time
for several years. (Alyssa Kelly Photo)
Polson, MT Although he was told it was
just a phase, Josh Crumley said he never felt comfortable
wearing girls clothes. As he grew older, Crumley said being
called a girl started to feel like an insult. I never felt
like I was meant to dress like a girl, he said. It
just never felt comfortable to me. I felt like who I was on the
outside wasnt who I was on the inside.
For Crumley, coming of age has meant coming to
terms with his gender identity. The 15-year-old identifies as
transgender, which is an umbrella term that describes individuals
whose internal gender identity differs from the gender they were
assigned at birth. Theres more to who we are as people
than the sex we were born with. Our sex is just whats in
our pants, Crumley said.
Although he said he always knew he was different,
Crumleys first major step in his transition from female
to male was receiving a shorter than usual haircut in sixth grade.
I think for everyone else it was just a haircut. But for
me, it felt like I was starting to look how I felt, he said.
has recently become politically active in the LBGT community.
One of his favorite gatherings is attending pride parades
and rallies. It feels good to be around people who
are like me, he said. Ive even met elders
in the LBGT community who have given me a lot of advice.
By seventh grade, Crumley felt comfortable enough
with his identity as a male to share it with his mother Mary Charlo.
I was really nervous when I told my mom that I was transgender,
Crumley recalled. She was really understanding. She said
that she would love me no matter what and that made me feel better.
Although Charlo said she noticed a difference
in Crumley as early as first grade, she said Joshs transition
has been a process of learning as a parent. When he first
came out as transgender, I struggled some with the loss of my
daughter, she said. We will never prom dress shop.
Ill never go wedding dress shopping with him
its a loss, Im also gaining a son, who is amazing.
Hes talented and brave. We will just go shopping for tuxes
been really supportive of me and has been correcting people
on the pronouns of who I am now, Josh said of his
twin sister Hailee. I used to dress as a boy when
I was younger so I understand Josh in that way. I made him
artwork to show him I love and support him, Hailee
said. (Alyssa Kelly Photo)
Having gained the support of his mother and twin
sister Hailee, Crumley came out to the rest of world
by creating an Internet video. There were a lot of people
in my life that didnt understand my transition, he
said. Some people knew and some didnt and I didnt
want to keep explaining myself. I saw that there were trans people
making Youtube videos as a way to make the announcement and I
thought the platform would be cool.
Since coming out, Charlo said her sons
transition has had its trials. Crumley started getting bullied
and harassed at schoolbeing shoved into lockers, elbowed,
and told he would never be a real man. He even faced
discrimination from longtime friends and peers.
has been creating artwork to express his pride in being
a young transgender man. (Alyssa Kelly Photo)
There were parents that didnt want
their kids around Josh or to be his friend, she said. Like
they openly told their child they couldnt be friends with
him anymore because he is transgender. I was disappointed by several
of Joshs friends parents when I found out they were
discriminating against him for his choice of gender.
Bullying had become so severe Crumley was hospitalized
twice last fall for anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Its been a fight to be who I am but I wont stop
being who I am, Crumley said. Ive learned that
people who have a problem with other people being who they are,
really have a problem with themselves.
Crumley is not alone. The National Center for
Transgender Equality reports that 75 percent of transgender youth
feel unsafe at school. The Human Rights Campaign reports that
transgender youth are twice as likely to be physically assaulted
than their peers. The Harvard School of Public Health reports
that transgender youth are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety
and depression than their peers.
dont like old photos, Josh said of his baby
photos depicting him as a female. I feel like that
person is dead to me. Thats not who I am anymore.
(Alyssa Kelly Photo)
Charlos experience caring for Crumley during
his darkest time inspired her to share some words of advice: I
would encourage people who have someone in their family who is
gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender to be open to their orientation,
she said. Treat them how you would want to be treated as
a straight person, with respect. Even if you dont agree
with their choices, dont belittle them, or tell them there
is something wrong with them. This can lead to depression and
suicidal thoughts. Just love them, support them, and accept them
for who they really are.
Counseling, transgender support groups, attending
pride rallies, and seeking transgender mentors has helped Crumley
overcome discrimination. The teen also made the decision to transfer
to Two Eagle River School. The tribal charter high school had
four transgender students and welcomed Crumley with open arms.
In a broadcast interview with KPAX, Two Eagle
River School Superintendent Rodney Bird said acceptance is a Native
American custom: I think Native values, we dont judge
people, we take them as they are, he said. We get
students from every school on every reservation across the state,
some from different tribes. Some have gender issues. We treat
them like family, everyones accepted.
grandfather Vic Charlo showed his support by attending a
court hearing in Tribal Court where Josh legally changed
his name. (Courtesy Photo)
|Anti-transgender bill fails
in Montana Legislature
The political focus on transgender restroom rights extended
beyond Washington DC recently as a bill entitled The
Montana Locker Room Privacy Act, failed the Montana
Legislative Committee 11-7 on Monday.
HB 609 would have allowed individuals to sue public government
agencies if it didnt take reasonable measures to
prohibit members of the opposite sex from using restroom
and locker room facilities.
Were supporting transgender rights,
said Cathy Billie of the Flathead Reservation Human Rights
Coalition. We hope the legislator continues to strike
down any bill that would restrict the rights of transgender
Montana Family Foundation president Jeff Laszloffy says
his organization will now look to put the issue before voters
as a 2018 ballot initiative.
Crumley took legal action in his transition recently
by changing his name in the Salish and Kootenai Tribal Court.
It felt great to have my name changed legally, he
said. I knew I wanted something with the letter J
and Josh is a better fit for who I am. I was glad that my grandpa
(Vic Charlo) came to support me.
Attending rallies has inspired Crumley to get
active in Transgender issues. In February, the Trump administration
withdrew federal protections that allowed transgender students
to use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender
identity in public schools. Crumley said this political form of
discrimination had an impact.
Trumps decision took trans kids
rights away, Crumley said. Trans people are more likely
to be killed or sexually assaulted and I was afraid Trumps
decision was going to make hateful people feel like it was okay
to hurt people like me. I almost considered going back in
but my aunt Claire said: if you go back in, youre
saying people like Trump have power. No one should be able to
change who you are.
Crumleys political activism and experience
as a young transgender man has inspired him to study law following
high school in order to protect the rights of the Lesbian, Bi,
Gay, and Transgender (LBGT) community. He would also like to work
in photography to help bring an understanding. I hope people
will learn that trans people are human, he said. We
just want to live a happy life like anyone else.