How to Ensure the Safety of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students at the 2023 and 2024 Championship?

Good morning Chief Delphi. Since FIRST has announced that the Championship will remain in Houston for the next two years, I believe that a question brought up this past year should certainly be brought up again: Can we ensure the safety of LGBTQIA+ students in Texas? If you are not aware, the Texas GOP is attempting to pass/has passed certain legislation that puts many students across FIRST programs in considerable danger. For many people, including myself, this creates a considerable barrier for attending, competing, or volunteering at the Championship as a genuine concern for safety takes priority over anything else. This concern took place last year and will continue to exist for the coming years, assuming FIRST continues to hold the Championship in Houston. If FIRST is to remain true to their core values, I believe that we as a community should push them to make changes such as relocating the Championship (I understand that this is very difficult from a logistical standpoint, especially while under a contract.), or even just making a public statement about the safety of students. Asking students to compete in an environment where their very well-being is under political pursuit is completely unacceptable and we need to be seeing more inclusive action from an organization that prides itself on being open and welcoming to all.

We expect better from you, FIRST.

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For the benefit of many who are not familiar with the Texas legislation, it may be helpful to describe specifically what the considerable danger is for LGBTQIA+ students who visit Texas. What is likely to happen to these students if they attend Championships? Also, does the danger apply to students in any of the LGBTQIA+ categories, or is there something about the legislation such that certain ones would face more danger than others?

By having a better understanding of the danger, ideas in response about how to ensure or at least improve safety should be better. Even if it doesn’t lead to good ideas, describing the nature and magnitude of the danger will create better awareness for many.

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This post did a commendable job outlining a specific and realistic threat model that may make the danger feel more present for folks:

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Not unless FIRST does something wild like sue the state for preventing them from safely holding their event in Texas.

There is also still a chance this could all get resolved and trans kids + their families could be safe in Texas before next year. As it stands though the legal situation is pretty unstable.

Last time the statewide injunction got overturned it was essentially within hours that the investigations began again. Not ignoring the fact that the terrorizing of trans kids never really stopped during the courts injunction of the order. Just the actual investigations.

I am so incredibly sad that it came to this. When I was a student I would have done anything to compete, including risk the worst Texas could throw at me. I imagine many other queer kids are feeling the same way right now.

But unfortunately because of the specific nature of FIRST events (tons of mandatory reporters packed into a building with LGBT kids) the risks are extremely high. The only way to protect kids and mentors who would be at risk is either some extremely drastic actions of solidarity, or to simply not go to Texas in 2023.

I understand that my perspective may seem skewed, but I’m speaking here from a place of direct experience dealing with the kinds of people and organizations that would seek to cause problems for trans kids in Texas. (Albeit not the exact same groups because I’m working on lobbying and activism in Ohio).

These groups don’t mess around. And with the current situation in Texas they don’t have to fully succeed to traumatize a child or ruin a person’s life.

I’m trying to not sound hyperbolic, because I know I’ve been very involved in these issues for the past few months. But I am begging you all to not underestimate how bad it could get, even for just one kid or family if we just wrap the Championship in a pride flag and call it a day.

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@Tyler_Olds brought up a good point on FUN… Where’s the FIRST EDI director commenting on this? I mean either FIRST only recognizes EDI as a marketing ploy or they truly embrace it and have issues with contractual agreements. Either way, it would be good to hear from the EDI director on this to know that they truly value EDI. Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion | FIRST

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I’ve said this before - it’s not about some random bigots or whatever; it’s the threat of state violence. Unless you are making a thread advocating for FIRST volunteers to actively resist state violence (eg by preventing authorities from entering the competition), you can’t solve the problem with the event being in Houston.

I think this is such a new problem for a lot of people that it’s just not parsed or comprehended. It’s not like “oh, this state has more bigots than average”, it’s that it is state sanctioned.

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A few thoughts on this. First…yes, agreed, we should hear from them on this.

Also, since Shelley left, I haven’t heard a word from the new director. I think an EDI director needs to be public and out front, making waves at events and listening. Maybe I just didn’t cross paths anywhere the past few seasons, but both FIRST and the director are responsible for making their voice prominent on this and other issues.

Lastly, while it’ll be great to hear from the EDI director, we also need to hear from other leadership at FIRST. This is a common failure point of similar diversity positions at other large organizations. They’ll hire someone who is supposed to be the voice for all the diverse as a token of their supposed commitment to their values. But a diversity person is not how we as an organization speak our values – it’s through all our members and leaders, their voices and their actions.

On this issue and evey other, we need to see HQ live its values, not just write them.

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My brother whom is trans would love to experience worlds with me and his other trans boyfriend. I can’t let them and all I can do is bring back merch or cool things so they get a piece of it. Makes me sad every time.

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My 2cents is that in Harris County(And Houston) you can be safely assured that no government officials will enforce the discriminatory policies. No medical professionals will behave disrespectful nor will the population of Harris County.
My concern would be an automobile accident while traveling through Texas in the deeply red counties.
As a side note I’ll acknowledge that TX could send in state police to enforce policies in an otherwise non cooperating county, however to my knowledge this would be the first time of such an instance involving children since Ruby Bridges.
This isn’t to brush aside how heinous these policies are, because they are heinous. But no Judge, Prosecutor, or Officer wants to be on national news for harresing/imprisoning otherwise peaceful children/parents/teachers at a worldwide robotics competition.

In case anyone didn’t scroll to the bottom. Reach out to the diversity team at HQ.

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