Around fourth grade, CeCe McDonald realized that she was trans. “There was this fierce little diva inside me and she wanted to be free,” McDonald recently told a crowd at the Gay-Straight Alliance Network’s (GSAnational gathering.

But that diva had to fight for her freedom.

McDonald detailed the intense bullying and harrassment that drove her away from the classroom. “I felt like I was robbed of my education by other people’s ignorance.”

She shared her story in order to bring attention to the need for more inclusive school settings for queer and transgender children. “We must keep stories like CeCe’s at the heart of our work in GSAs. We must keep working for justice. Commit your GSA to working against criminalization this school year,” wrote Mustafa Sullivan, director of national programs at GSA Network.

Last year, The Atlantic’s Nanette Fondas reported on the harsh reality facing LGBT students of color:

In one study, more than half of LGBT students who are African American, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and multiracial said they had been verbally harassed at school in the past year. Another reports nearly half (48 percent) of LGBT students of color experienced verbal harassment from both their sexual orientation and race or ethnicity, and 15 percent had been physically harassed or assaulted. The physical, emotional, and mental health impacts of a hostile climate at school easily encourage avoidance behavior, and students often skip class or stay home. This has deleterious effects on their school performance and college entrance prospects. Serious long term effects of harassment at school emerged in one study: 32 percent of transgender people who were physically assaulted at school reported a history of work in the underground economy, including drug dealing and sex work, compared with 14 percent who had not experienced violence at school. In a different survey, a staggering 51 percent of LGBT people who reported being harassed or bullied at school also said they had attempted suicide.

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