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A Transgender Latina Teen Speaks: They’re Killing Us. Help Us Stop Them.

| June 20, 2016

A scene from Friday night's vigil for the victims of the Orlando massacre. (© Morgan Sharman for FlaglerLive)

A scene from Friday night’s vigil for the victims of the Orlando massacre. (© Morgan Sharman for FlaglerLive)

By Grace Dolan-Sandrino

The weekend of June 12 sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions I never thought possible.


The previous Friday, I was an invited participant in the first-ever White House Summit for African American LGBTQ Youth. I felt amazingly supported, empowered, and valued — by my school, by my family and friends, by President Obama, and by my LGBTQ community.

I was inspired.

On Saturday, I marched in the Pride Parade in our nation’s capital. I sang and danced with neighbors from every race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We celebrated ourselves, each other, our allies, and our bright futures.

We were so beautiful and full of promise. I was so proud to be an Afro-Latina-Anglo transgender teen.

Then came Sunday.

I woke up to find that a hatred-filled assassin in Orlando had brutally murdered 49 members of our young, innocent, beautiful, and beloved community, and injured over 50 more.

They say the murderer was a U.S.-born Islamic terrorist. But Omar Mateen’s hatred for my community echoes the headlines I see about right-wing fundamentalists of other faiths who call for discrimination against people like me — and for the erasure of my rights as a human being.

His hatred echoes the oppression, arrests, and killings of my black and Latino brothers and sisters on the streets, in schools, and in our prisons. It reflects the cruelty of those who want to keep Muslims and Latinos away from our country — by force — and who still want to keep LGBTQ people from marrying each other.

They’ll even deny us the right to pee in peace, if that’s what it takes to dehumanize and humiliate us.


“We want you not just to love us, but to support us and to listen to us.”


I’m not trying to be partisan. But it’s hard not to notice that President Obama held a summit to tell us how valued we are, while Donald Trump and many conservative lawmakers want to erase us.

Many Republicans invoked fears of international terrorism, but most said nothing about the members of our LGBTQ communities, who were the very targets and victims. They vow more Islamophobia, but make no mention of the ease with which the killers get and use assault weapons.

I’m only 15 years old, but I know what it’s like to have deep love and support, and I’ve witnessed and been the object of deep hatred and ignorance. I feel angry and heartbroken by this massacre.

A culture of fear and bigotry is again taking hold of this country. But my generation demands our equality and our human rights. We want to lead, and to determine our own future. We want you not just to love us, but to support us and to listen to us.

So if you don’t understand who we are and what we need, ask us.

To start, you can fight back against laws aimed at hurting us or erasing us, like thosebigoted and ridiculous bathroom bills. Punish politicians who block sensible gun control. Stop supporting lawmakers who want to exploit and exclude immigrants. Stop the people who are expelling and suspending and arresting and incarcerating us.

They’re killing us. Help us stop them.

We’re stronger than you think. We’re Generation Z, and we come of age in 2018. Our future is majority black and brown, and more openly queer than any before us.

We know that many of you are allies. We need you, and you need us. Together we can stop the rollercoaster of fear and terror and start the climb to the mountaintop of love and liberation.

grace dolanGrace Dolan-Sandrino is a Peer Educator at SMYAL, an organization dedicated solely to supporting and empowering LGBTQ youth. She was a participant in the White House Summit for African American LGBTQ Youth, and she is a transgender teen activist.

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16 Responses for “A Transgender Latina Teen Speaks: They’re Killing Us. Help Us Stop Them.”

  1. Lin says:

    You are only 15 and yet you have demonized and mis-characterized Republicans.
    Just a few words of advice.

    If you want support, don’t insult those of us with an R next to our name in the voting rolls. We are all different from each other and our hearts broken for those in Orlando and their friends and families. My first thought that morning was profound sadness for the Americans that died that day.

    The ISIS and Other Islamic radical groups would say you should be punished or put to death for your views.
    I would say you and I are Americans and more alike than different and I feel for your struggle
    But you are allowing us to be divided by politics.

    If the terrorists had their way, you would suffer more. So many died here last week. They give no rights to women and kill with abandon. We must fight them together, not deny this murder and so many others is one more example of radical Islamic terrorists multiplying. To lay blame on Republicans is closing your eyes to the real problem and insulting me. Won’t help you.

    I hope you have more conversations face to face with more Republicans and stop believing the propaganda if the left. Example – Attorney general Lynch censoring 911 calls from that night in Orlando.

  2. Ken Dodge says:

    It’s starting: Priority 1 is to get those wicked wepublicans.

  3. Mark says:

    Exactly which one of your human rights are being denied? Hurry up, google them.

  4. Veteran says:

    What does the “Q” stand for?

  5. Egalité says:

    Wow, everyone. I am flabbergasted at how the first three comments on this young woman’s way of standing up for her community are all doing the exact same thing she called out in the article. Are you listening to her? No. All you know is that someone has the audacity to–gasp!–criticize your political party, and that’s all you see as you jump to the defense of your inviolable views and completely and utterly miss the point that she is trying to make.
    Nobody is asking you to renounce every political view you’ve ever held and turn up at the DNC dressed all in blue. All anyone is asking is that instead of just lashing out reflexively at anyone who dares question whether people affiliated with your party are doing the right thing in a particular situation, actually LISTEN to what they have to say, and entertain the possibility that maybe, just maybe, someone who’s not you or a fellow conservative might have a valid point that deserves to be acted upon constructively.

  6. Ken Dodge says:

    Some quotes:
    “. . . right-wing fundamentalists of other faiths who call for discrimination against people like me — and for the erasure of my rights as a human”

    “President Obama held a summit to tell us how valued we are, while Donald Trump and many conservative lawmakers want to erase us.”

    “Republicans . . . vow more Islamophobia, but make no mention of the ease with which the killers get and use assault weapons.”

    “. . . laws aimed at hurting us or erasing us, like those bigoted and ridiculous bathroom bills. . . politicians who block sensible gun control . . . lawmakers who want to exploit and exclude immigrants . . people who are expelling and suspending and arresting and incarcerating us.”

    Sounds more like an indictment than a criticism, ya think?

  7. William Moya says:

    Interesting, Lin, that in the defense of your party and your candidate not once did you mentioned that this was an attack om gays, lesbians, transgenders, and queers, because ..gasp.. it may be contagious, beside your American whitetopia doesn’t include such people or does it? As much as you try to spin it, since last summer the Republican party has gone hard right and is now led by (for the 10th time) a fascist, a racist, a bigot, and an all around ignoramus, but in paraphrasing Paul Ryan let’s look beyond those minor details and vote for the guy anyway.

  8. Ken Dodge says:

    LGBTQ: you can type the letters into your search engine (google, etc.) and get some answers.

  9. Lin says:

    William Moyà
    I know who was targeted and why — you didn’t consider what I said in my post.
    If you do not see that I am trying to build a bridge here that is your problem.
    Just suggesting to the writer of the article that they speak to real Republicans and not the stereotype that others and you describe. Your description is disgusting.

  10. Geezer says:

    Lest we forget “F” which means fabulous.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Here we go again blah blah blah. Which rights don’t you have now?? What a bunch of nonsense this whole article was. Actually it shou ded more like a joke. Miss 15 year old needs to spend her time worrying about getting a job and less time time on stupidity! Grow up people and get a real life

  12. David B says:

    Don’t blame the GOP, these radical beliefs of of Islam against gays, have been around for ever. Suggest you study these Islam and ISIS traditions before you make such a senseless comment. Does your parents know you are writing this comment without there approval ?

  13. Sherry says:

    I personally hope this brave young lady does not happen to read the lectures here, with fingers shaking in her young face. The “would be” adults who have commented here should be ashamed. They would much rather aggressively and obnoxiously defend their political party and admonish a young person who is reaching out in pain. . . than to be “open minded” enough to even try to understand her point of view and confusion. The very troubling thing is that they are not. They, over and over again, blast away with their often very hostile, defensive “talking points” which actually prove what so many people see clearly about their party. Yet, they are so very single minded that, sadly, they are too blind to see how they prove the stereotype with their offensive comments.

    Thank you, Grace for your courage to write about your personal feelings and emotions in such an intelligent articulate way. Dear Grace, please do not be dissuaded by those who have chastised you in their “close minded” comments here. Those of us who believe in being openhearted and accepting human beings without automatic judgement applaud you! Stay strong in your beliefs and good feelings about yourself and know that there are millions upon millions of intelligent, educated, caring people across the world who support you 100%!

  14. MarcW says:

    Letter to Grace Dolan Sandrino – A reply from a Gay Patriot to a Transgendered Teen:

    http://www.scout.com/military/sniper…sgendered-teen

    Dear Grace Dolan Sandrino,

    Let me start by saying how much I truly admire your courage and sheer determination, and sadly also recognize the years of torment and struggle. Both internally and externally you’ve endured and probably continue to suffer in your struggle to find your own identity and become comfortable in your own skin. “It gets better”, yes but when you’re coming from behind having been given the short end of the stick, does the fight ‘to be’ ever fully end for some of us?

    My empathy comes in part because I too, as a gay man from a couple generations ago, have struggled along that same path. I’m from a time though when society was far less accepting than it is now (if you can believe that). We endured hiding our identity, nearly zero public tolerance and even less from the police. These and more made gay bashing, persecution and abuse an acceptable norm.

    I tell you this so you will believe that I understand where you’re coming from.

    The Orlando massacre was a metaphorical bullet in all our backs. In many ways, it was even worse than Stonewall. Where, as I am sure you are aware, those whom are paid to serve and protect the citizen relentlessly and violently harassed them instead. Orlando has suddenly made it seem like we were reverting to the dark ages. If Orlando sets any precedent it’s that terrorists and nuts jobs are now ramping up their attacks on the most vulnerable, or what they may deem as ‘soft targets’, aiming for maximum damage and attention.

    Like you I too am very concerned for our future not only as LGBTs but as Americans and free citizens of this great republic. The divisions we sometimes face can seem insurmountable, the hate and persecution can be staggering and at best difficult to endure. Any suggested resolutions seem hardly adequate and difficult to attain, and in order to do what? Come to some all too fragile, flimsy and imperfect agreement?

    Obviously not facing the divisions and pretending they do not exist is not an option. So trudge on we must, knowing that mistakes will be made and therefore we must remember to try to remain open-minded, adaptable and determined to fight for equality. We must also understand that there will never be that perfect solution that makes everyone happy.

    While I couldn’t agree more with your take on “those bigoted and ridiculous bathroom bills” and “common sense guns bills” I can only agree so long as those ‘common sense’ bills do NOT infringe on the rights of responsible, good and caring gun owning citizens.

    You see I am first an American and second a Gay man. My fundamental ‘rights’ are a birthright as a human being and are protected by the Constitution. The bottom line is that without the liberties and natural rights listed and protected by the Constitution I (we) will never have or keep any rights as Americans, much less as LGBT persons. So no matter my race, gender, orientation or sexual preference the Constitution for any true American should come first.

    Just as important as the Constitution is as a whole, so is the Second Amendment. It is that which guarantees me the right to protect myself and my family from any threat, whether from criminals or tyrannical government. The Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms for the protection of self and family, is the ONE right and freedom in the Constitution that insures every other freedom we as citizen hold dear. Therefore it is without doubt and without question the most important Constitutional Amendment of them all. It is the very cornerstone of our entire republic. Any bill or law that inhibits that God given liberty, that natural birthright as a human being, can only be taken as being anti-America.

    And yet in spite of this inherent right none of the people in Orlando could protect themselves. Not one person ever really had a chance. Why, because not one of them had a gun, not a single one (I’d bet my last dollar every one of them wished for one). And so, disarmed by the very laws they were told would protect them, they were “like lambs to the slaughter.” I would have much rather had the chance to #shootback. I would have given my life to protect my family, my friends and citizens. I would have much rather faced the evil than cower in fear and hope for a savior in blue. Wouldn’t have you? Wouldn’t you have risked your own life and pulled the trigger to save your mother, your lover, your friend, an innocent stranger? I strongly suspect you would have.

    The more we focus on pointing fingers and trying to blame each other the more it divides us and continues the erosion of our rights. The more distractions that are thrown about such as what types of firearms are ‘acceptable’ the more the issues are confused and muddled. The result is the slow and methodical disarming of the people.

    Case in point, the very rifle they’re intent on vilifying and outlawing is precisely the best rifle we have to protect ourselves.

    The more we become complacent and falsely dependent on a government that cannot, and almost never will be, there in time to stop the crazies whether they are terrorist groups, lone wolf, or your average psycho nut job the greater the chance is we may face the peril first hand and empty handed. Add to that ‘Warren vs. DC’ –in short: “Police Have No Duty to Protect Individuals…”(!)

    Criminals will always find a way to get guns. If not guns, then bombs, if not bombs, then fires, or poison, or cars as weapons. The list is endless and grows as our technology grows. Those that want mass death and casualties will figure out a way to hit soft targets. Happyland Nightclub is one example that comes to mind, 84 dead with nothing more than gasoline.

    ‘For the people by the people’ does not mean a Government that disarms the people to me. No, in fact ‘for the people by the people’ means EXACTLY the opposite. It means we must exercise the right to come together, to protect one another, ourselves, our family our friends. It means we must finally realize that we cannot wait for the cops to come. We must learn how to stand up for ourselves. We must take back the right to responsible carry of firearms and then be ever vigilant. Those willing to answer the call of being a true American be they LGBT, Straight, Black, White, Latin, Asian, Et al. must train ourselves to use firearms safely and responsibly. We must also learn how to assess the situation and act accordingly.

    It is our duty as a free people and as citizens, we are required to act ‘for the people by the people.’ In fact it is training that government should be required to offer to any law abiding citizen who is willing to stand in defense of their fellow citizens. Law abiding citizens should have access to free and thorough training done by qualified, certified professionals.

    As important as all of the above is we must never forget that we are a product of our history and all the freedoms protected by the Constitution are as vital today as they were at the beginning during the American Revolution. The threats we face to our liberties today may be even greater than those of the past as they are more subversive, clandestine and cloaked in the guise of ‘progress’ and the greater good. Should we forget why we fought the American Revolution, why so many were willing to sacrifice their fortunes, their property and their very lives we will be doomed to repeat it or be lost forever.

    At the end of the day we must remember it is not about fear, it’s about freedom and the preservation of liberty. It’s about freedom of speech, freedom of expression, the right to defend my family and myself and the fundamental right to self-determination. Should, God forbid, the event ever come to pass that I need to do so I will protect my family, myself and others first and worry about the consequences later.

    Former Chief of LAPD Ed Davis said it best, “Citizens arm yourselves, the police cannot protect you”.

    Marc W. Director
    http://www.GaysWithGuns.la

    Bunny K. Transitioning M to F
    http://www.GaysWithGuns.la

    Get Involved!

    PinkPistols.org and GayswithGuns.la are social groups primarily about helping anyone to learn responsible and safe use of firearms for the use of self-defense and recreation.

    Gays With Guns also promotes the political goal of reversing the restrictive, prohibitive and extremely unconstitutional concealed weapon permit process.

  15. Sherry says:

    Also Grace. . . do not let anger and hate fill your heart! If you do, you will be no better than those who oppose you. DO NOT go out and buy a gun. . . hate, anger, violence, murder is NOT the path to peace, love and joy. . . or a civilized society! Violence begets nothing but more violence!

    Stay strong, and have “true” courage!

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