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LGBT youth in central Wisconsin: more people, more resources

CENTRAL WISCONSIN (WAOW) — Over the past few months, News 9 has covered vandalism and controversy around our LGBT community.

Still, that part of our greater community is growing, and so are their resources.

According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about one in 10 high school students identifies as LGBT. That’s not a national statistic, as it is broken down by county: nine percent of students in Marathon County, 11 percent in Lincoln County, 10 percent in Wood County, 11 percent in Portage County.

The information was collected from surveys taken across the state by students like Wausau high school freshman Kylie Kodrich.

Kylie’s mom, Christine Palmer, said, “She’s a good kid; other than being on the iPad a little too much, she’s perfect.”

Christine’s relationship with Kylie is stronger now.

“I felt like there was a block. She was keeping something,” said Christine. “She wasn’t being her true self.”

Now, Kylie said, “I knew she would be okay with it but … I just didn’t want it to change, which is why I put it off for a long time.”

Christine said that up until Kylie entered eighth grade, there was a wall between them. Then one summer day, they were watching Love Simon together and finally had the conversation. Christine said that wall “just came crashing down.”

Kylie said they are closer now, as she is able to talk to her mom about problems — both big and small.

An open line of communication between parents and teens leaves a lasting impact, especially when LGBT students in our community report being bullied at double the rate of other students and report twice the mental health concerns, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Jaxon Seeger grew up in Mosinee. He said he was depressed as a teen and engaged in self-harm for the first time when he was 12.  He didn’t have resources or role models to help him feel empowered in his situation.

“Self-harming was something I could control, which is why I did it so much,” said Seeger.

In 2015, Jaxon said he attempted suicide and was hospitalized. He was a senior in high school when he finally came out to his parents. His biological mother kicked him out.

“I meet kids every day who are still in the closet because they know or they think that their parents won’t accept them,” he said.

So, in 2018 Jaxon Founded Wausau’s Trans Fam Alliance, a resource for himself and people like Mika Jenkins, a black trans woman, to express themselves.

Mika explains her transition artistically: “It’s like playing a tape on a VCR and a DVD. They’re both the same thing, but a DVD is clearer and sharper and you know what you’re looking at.”

At Trans Fam Alliance’s weekly Monday meetings in the YWCA, Mika and others share their experiences, their peaks and valleys and their laughter. It’s a form of community bonding.

“We’re not monsters; we’re just people,” she said.

Now, they are people with resources. From Trans Fam to groups like Proud Theater, and even healthcare, Christine Palmer feels more comfortable than before with raising her daughter in central Wisconsin.

“Like ‘Okay, my daughter is going to be alright here,'” she said. “We are going to be okay.”

However, Christine said parents can and should do more.

“For those parents that are afraid to go through this, don’t be,” she said. “They’re your kids and they’re going to have normal lives like everybody else.”

To learn more about the resources mentioned in this article, you can visit the various web pages linked above.

Tom Lally

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