FosterClub connects, educates and supports youth in and from foster care with an online network, resources and training events. Tristan, an 18-year-old transgender male from Nevada, is a FosterClub spokesperson and recently participated in its #FosterEquality campaign. Here he shares his story of the 9 months he spent in the child welfare system and the changes he’s working to make so other LGBTQ youth don’t have a similar experience.
Advocating for myself was the most difficult part of being in the foster care system, but it’s also a vital skill to learn. Before entering the system, I had suffered plenty of abuse for being a trans man who dared to come out of the closet. My teachers rejected me, my peers kept their distance, and my home life was dreadful enough to land me in a center for suicide prevention. When grasping at the last reasons for my life to continue, I was visited by Child Protective Services (CPS) and assigned to a home within the week. After one meeting with my future foster parent, I was expected to be a perfect fit for her home because she had a family member who was transgender.
The “perfect fit” foster home quickly became a bad fit after several incidents of discrimination. I was locked in the foster parent’s room and berated for being transgender. I was once again on the precipice of ending everything after she used her biological children’s confusion with gender to stigmatize my existence. Her exact words were, “You changing your gender is like me changing my skin color from black to white; it’s never going to happen.” Bullied and with violated dignity, I pleaded for help from my caseworker, my attorney, and my therapist, but no one was willing to stand up for me. It wasn’t until I met André Wade at The Center that I was finally moved out of that foster home. He was the only adult who validated my existence, and he was abhorred at how I was left to fend for myself.
In my new foster home, discrimination endured and things didn’t end on good terms. After a family member learned I was transgender, the foster parents withheld food from me. After five months, the foster parents wanted an emergency extraction so that they didn’t have to deal with me anymore. After an argument erupted on the basis of my gender identity, the foster parents called my caseworker in the middle of the night while I packed my belongings in trash bags waiting for someone to help me. Their last words to me repeat in my mind constantly, “You’re a freak. Your only friends are transsexuals at The Center.”