Last week, It Gets Better Project staff members headed to Austin, Texas for the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival. We hosted a meetup for queer educators and allies where guests played LGBTQ+ bingo, were treated to a trivia game highlighting LGBTQ+ history, and talked about the important work that the It Gets Better Project is doing in support of inclusive education.

But given that SXSW takes place in Texas, a state where politicians seem to be on a mission to discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth, we also wanted to take the opportunity to have THAT conversation. We were honored to be joined by two incredible people — one of our Youth Voices ambassadors, 14-year-old Elliot Schneider, and their mom, Holly — who shared some of their thoughts about what’s happening in Texas… as a trans teen trying to live their life, and as a mom trying to support her child.

Read the powerful words they had to offer below!

Elliot Schneider – 14 years old

The proposed child abuse bill directly affects me. It makes me sick to even think about it. It makes me feel scared to be open about being transgender because if I share that with the wrong person my parents could be investigated for child abuse. It makes me feel so sad and scared for me and all the trans kids in Texas because our government has let it be known that they do not support us. 

To the lawmakers considering these bills I would like to say- leave us alone. It is such a weak and disgusting move to make one of the most vulnerable groups of youth- transgender and nonbinary CHILDREN- the target of your hate and bigotry. There are so many other important statewide and nationwide issues that you should be focusing your attention on.

Science is on our side, transgender and nonbinary youth are real. We are here, we are valid, we are strong, and we will not stop fighting until we get the rights and respect we deserve. 

Elliot’s mom, Holly Schneider

What a wonderful opportunity here at SXSW EDU — to learn and how inclusive it is! 

We are so proud of YOU, Elliot. 

As new parents navigating this journey for just over two years now, the first thing we did was start educating ourselves.

• We bought a book (Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals)

• I found a website with an article called “Pronouns Matter”.

• I talked to my allies at work

• I reached out to parents at our school and joined their social parent support group (they are cheering you on tonight by the way E!)

• I went to see my therapist

• I watched this video from the It Gets Better Project — “What Being Trans Means!”

I wanted to learn and want to continue to learn so I can help to navigate and support Elliot as best as I am able.

Yet, I feel that recently in Texas (and I love to say I am from Austin, it is just getting harder to say the Texas part these days!) The Texas government is making these laws (to prevent trans-kids from playing sports or to say that providing gender-affirming care is child abuse) without educating themselves first. 

When we went to the rally recently, I continued to be educated – hearing the voices of professionals, parents, and friends and especially from individuals themselves ranging from adolescents to young adults -their struggles, and what they have accomplished and what they have overcome. 

That is why it is so important to have an organization like It Gets Better. For education. For support. For our families and our youth who are navigating so much. From just being a kid, to being an adolescent, being in school, and then the whole external world of the pandemic to now a war in Ukraine and overall, just trying to navigate their own sense of selves, who they are, while trying to maintain some control.

And here, Texas is trying to control what our kids can or cannot read, what can or cannot be taught to them, and now who they can or cannot be. But this morning I thought — they cannot control their voices! 

SO thank you It Gets Better for helping our youth voices to be heard! 

Thank you for giving our trans youth a place to share their story, to connect with one another, to provide all of us resources, education and support so our kids can hear that they are not alone and can continue to thrive to be the best versions of …. themselves.