Okay, so let’s talk about my buddy Lucas.
Lucas is currently 18 years old, and came to the United States as a refugee 11 years ago. He speaks 3 languages, and he started wearing flannel before he even knew it was cool. He's hardworking, smart, and what I’d call an artistic prodigy, though he’s so humble that I can practically hear him mumbling an objection as I type this. In addition to winning numerous academic and artistic awards, he has won the hearts of many adults in his life—high school teachers, friends’ parents, and working artists such as myself— all of whom are currently doing our best to help and protect him. See, Lucas is going through some seriously terrifying shit right now. He's in a predicament that no one should ever have to face, let alone someone his age.
Lucas is a transgender boy from a family of intolerant religious extremists. And I’m not talking about we-will-disown-you-for-being-trans religious extremists, I’m talking about we-will-hunt-you-down-and-kill-you-for-being-trans religious extremists. That’s not an hyperbole: his dad has threatened to murder him on multiple occasions, and has openly bragged about assaulting a trans person.
Despite what his birth certificate says, Lucas has known he's a boy since long before he learned the words to describe his gender. Actually, there were a lot of words that Lucas would've benefitted from knowing earlier on, but his parents kept him strictly uninformed when it came to sex and his own body. Having never been told about menstrual cycles, Lucas naturally assumed he was dying when he started his. In a panic he told his mom what was happening, and she drove him to a pharmacy for pads. "You’re a liability now," she said to him, by way of explanation. "You can break down this entire family.”
Regarding him as a girl, Lucas’s parents allowed him very few freedoms. He was never allowed to visit friends or attend social events. He was forbidden from riding a bicycle, lest it compromise the integrity of his hymen and disappoint his future husband. His mom once caught him DANCING to MUSIC (scandalous!) and doused him with holy water to free him of the evil that had so clearly possessed him.
Lucas was in his early teens when he snuck into a GSA meeting at his high school and learned about gender dysphoria. He begin to slowly understand himself and then, perhaps more slowly, to accept himself. With the support of his friends and teachers, he changed his name and switched his pronouns. For the first time in his life, he could exist as himself… but only at school. At home he had to pretend to be a quiet, well-behaved girl. He lived this double life for most of his adolescence.
The first time his dad threatened to murder him, Lucas was 12 years old. His parents had found out that he had started his own email account, and were furious at the idea of him having this unsupervised link to the outside world. His dad violently attacked him and held a kitchen knife to his throat while the rest of his family watched. That night he made his first attempt to run away, but once out of his house he realized he had nowhere to go. He hid in a Walgreens for a few hours until the police found him and delivered him back home (#serveandprotect), where his dad kicked the shit out of him and assured him that if he ever tried to run away again he would find him and put a bullet in his head.
Lucas spent the next six years planning a more well-thought-out runaway scheme. “Next time,” he told himself, “I’ll bring underwear.”
This past June Lucas graduated high school. Unbeknownst to his parents, he had been accepted into college with a hefty scholarship. He left a note telling his family that he was safe and wouldn't be returning, and then, immediately after receiving an art award at his high school’s graduation luncheon, he snuck off to a Dunkin' Donuts, where a mutual friend of ours picked him up.
Runaway plan 2.0 had commenced, and Lucas had forgotten to pack underwear.
He spent this past summer in hiding, sleeping on the couches and spare beds of friends. He spent several afternoons hanging out in my studio, where I got to see firsthand just how talented he is— seriously, this kid is the real thing. He started taking hormones, filed for a legal name change, and began seeing a therapist, who unsurprisingly diagnosed him with PTSD. Meanwhile his parents searched for him. They got the police on board by telling them that Lucas had disappeared without a trace (so much for that note) and was an imminent danger to himself. I advised him to call the police and tell them that he was 18 years old and knew where he was, and therefore couldn't possibly meet the qualifications of a missing person. I had the brilliant idea that we use a payphone to make this call so that it couldn't be traced. Lucas politely reminded me that it’s 2018 and payphones are extinct, but I was unfazed: “There’s gotta be at least one payphone left in this city.” We put on baseball hats and went out into the night in my pickup truck, like a couple of misfit kids on a mission in an eighties movie.
We didn’t find a payphone. Lucas was right. Lucas is always right.
Hey Lucas, remember that time you told me that the person I was quasi-dating was bad news, and I chose to ignore your advice on the grounds that you're a teenager and have no dating experience? Turns out you were right about that one, too.
ANYWAYS- the police stopped their search, but his parents haven’t. Several of us have encouraged him to file a restraining order, but that would require him being in the same courtroom as his father, an idea that justifiably terrifies him. Also, law enforcement doesn’t exactly have a great track record with trans people, people of color, or refugees.
Lucas started college in a different state a few weeks ago, which means he’s further from his family, but also further from his support network. We had hoped this would be a fresh start for him, but unfortunately (VERY unfortunately) his inept high school guidance counselor told his parents what school he’s attending. They’ve already showed up looking for him, and though the college issued some sort of legal thing that bans them from school property, he worries that they’ll come back. While his peers ease into the fun new independence of college life, Lucas still lives in fear.
So we, the adults in his life, offer Lucas what we can: odd jobs, rides, places to stay, advice, and money when we can. We offer him affirmation, respect, and autonomy– things he never experienced at home. We do what's within our means to get him ever so slightly closer to the safe and comfortable life that he deserves, but our means alone aren't enough.
We're raising funds to give Lucas a college education. Though he earned his school's biggest scholarship, it doesn’t cover all four years of tuition. He'll need another 40k to get that sweet sweet diploma.
Additionally, we're raising money to cover gender-affirming surgery (top surgery). Because, you know, men who don't want boobs shouldn't have to have boobs. Since Medicaid seems to disagree with this sentiment (new slogan idea: "Medicaid: boobs for everyone, whether you want them or not!"), Lucas is looking at an out-of-pocket cost of about $10k.
So just to recap: by the age of ten Lucas had been relocated without warning to a different country where he didn't know the language TWO TIMES. He was physically and emotionally abused by his father. He was forced to live as the wrong gender for years. He was basically kept on house arrest by parents who regarded him with the subtlety and grace of the mom in Stephen King's "Carrie." But instead of having a telekinetic breakdown, Lucas has continued to fight for his right to simply exist as himself.
So just think for a moment about what your life was like when you were 18, then try, if you can, to picture yourself in Lucas’s situation.
Together we can make such a big difference for him.
If you wanna know more about Lucas, you can read this zine
he wrote! All proceeds go to him, duh.
NOTE: Out of concern that his parents might find this page, we are not using Lucas's real name. We also didn't want to use an actual photograph of him, but illustration powerhouse Dav Yendler
drew this sick portrait, which is spot-on.
All donations are being withdrawn and given directly to Lucas by our's and Lucas's friend (and all-around stand up citizen) Frankie Reynolds. We're doing it this way because 1. We can't list Lucas himself as the beneficiary without posting his full real name on this page (spoiler alert: it's not Lucas) and 2. Directly receiving the donations himself could potentially interfere with his student aid.
EDIT: I just got off the phone with Lucas. He says his college is teeming with payphones.
Whatever, Lucas. Did you even remember to bring underwear to college? DID YOU?