Why I'm Here | Silas Flaum | TEDxYouth@FranklinSchoolOfInnovation | Summary and Q&A

September 22, 2023
TEDx Talks
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Why I'm Here | Silas Flaum | TEDxYouth@FranklinSchoolOfInnovation

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In this emotional video, the speaker shares their personal journey as a transgender individual, outlining the struggles they faced in coming out and finding acceptance within their family and community. They also discuss the importance of disrupting preconceived notions about gender and advocating for trans liberation. The speaker highlights the alarming rates of mental health issues, discrimination, and violence faced by transgender individuals, emphasizing the need for society to respect names and pronouns to prevent suicide. They also raise awareness about the transgender community and their significant contributions throughout history. The video concludes with a call to action for listeners to support trans people and create a world where everyone can freely and comfortably be themselves.

Questions & Answers

Q: What was the speaker's experience like after coming out as transgender to their parents?

After coming out as transgender to their parents at 13 years old, the speaker faced intense mental and verbal abuse for two days. They eventually had to leave home and stay with a friend. When they returned, their transition continued to be a sore spot within their family, causing ongoing disruption and tension.

Q: How did the speaker's transition affect their friendships?

Growing up homeschooled, the speaker had limited opportunities to make new friends. As they entered adolescence and started transitioning, they noticed a shift in their friendships. Suddenly, their friend's parents wouldn't allow them to spend the night anymore, and they no longer felt comfortable showing affection to their friends. They even had a religious sit-down with other children who wanted to prevent them from going to hell. These experiences left the speaker feeling isolated and set apart from their peers.

Q: How did the speaker internalize the way others treated them and how did it affect their social skills?

The speaker developed a sense of shame and tried to fit in by mirroring the mannerisms and actions of others. They purposefully made themselves small visually and restrained themselves in conversation. This led to a lack of authentic social skills and an identity crisis as they did not feel comfortable being themselves. Over time, they gradually developed their own unique personality through practice and personal growth.

Q: What triggered the speaker's deep depression during the pandemic?

The speaker fell into a deep depression when the pandemic hit, after having achieved significant personal goals. They had been working towards their second-degree black belt in Taekwondo and training with their self-trained thoroughbred. The sudden halt of their progress and the isolation caused by the pandemic intensified their depression.

Q: How did the speaker start being honest with who they are?

The speaker started being honest with who they are by making their own clothes, dying their hair, and no longer hiding their opinions. They embrace their identity and express themselves authentically. Although they faced negative, positive, and confusing reactions from people, they find it essential to be open about their transgender identity.

Q: Why should people care to learn about transgender individuals?

Many people may question why they should care about learning about transgender individuals or believe they will never encounter a transgender person in real life. The speaker highlights that there are over 2 million trans people in the United States, and a significant percentage of American adults know someone who is transgender or non-binary. By understanding and accepting transgender individuals, communities can be improved and lives can be saved.

Q: How does respecting someone's name and pronouns prevent suicide?

Respecting someone's name and pronouns is more than an act of courtesy; it is a form of suicide prevention. The Trevor Project's National Survey found that transgender and non-binary youth who have their names and pronouns respected have a significantly lower suicide rate. However, only a minority of American adults believe it is important to use a person's new name or pronouns if they transition. Failure to respect names and pronouns leads to serious psychological stress, discrimination, harassment, and violence among transgender individuals.

Q: What are the alarming statistics related to mental health and discrimination faced by transgender individuals?

The speaker highlights the disparities faced by transgender individuals in terms of mental health and discrimination. According to the 2015 National Transgender Survey, 39% of transgender individuals experienced serious psychological stress in the past month, compared to 5% of the overall U.S. population. Nearly one-third experienced homelessness, half experienced some form of harassment or discrimination, and one in ten had a family member become violent towards them due to their identity. These statistics indicate the urgent need for societal acceptance and support.

Q: How do transgender individuals have a higher risk of experiencing violence?

The Human Rights Campaign has documented at least 302 violent deaths of trans and gender non-conforming people in the U.S. since 2013. Transgender people of color, especially trans feminine people or trans women, are at a significantly higher risk of being victims of violence. Ignorance, discrimination, and misgendering contribute to this violence. It is important to acknowledge and remember these victims through events like the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Q: How have transgender people been historically present despite limited acceptance?

While the term transgender and the recognition of transgender identities have gained visibility in the past 30 years, gender variance has been documented throughout history. Historians have found evidence of gender variants in ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome, South Asia, and indigenous communities. For example, soldiers assigned female at birth would serve as men in the army, many continuing to live as men after their service. Transgender people have always existed, and the growing acceptance of trans individuals will lead to a larger and more visible community.


This powerful video sheds light on the personal journey of a transgender individual and the challenges they faced in finding acceptance. It emphasizes the urgent need to disrupt preconceived notions about gender and advocate for trans liberation. The speaker highlights the alarming rates of mental health issues, discrimination, and violence faced by transgender individuals and underscores the importance of respecting names and pronouns as an act of suicide prevention. They also raise awareness about the contributions and resilience of the transgender community throughout history. The video ends with a call to action, urging people to support transgender individuals and create a world where everyone can live freely and authentically.

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