NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s hard to miss Jace Wilder, with his jet black hair and a small tattoo that reads the word ‘mutant’ dotted above his forearm.
“I actually got it when I was 18, and seeing people treat me like a mutant, it felt more appropriate to take pride in that label and to recognize that it’s not a bad thing to be different or a bad thing to be considered mutant,” he said.
Wilder is transgender and is the Education Director for the Tennessee Equality Project. He’s seen a spate of legislation affecting his community pass this session.
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“We’re absolutely going to see more suicides,” Wilder said.
Some of that legislation has come from Rep. Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood).
“Certainly, I can envision a lot of pain being associated with being someone and perhaps wanting to be the other sex,” Bulso said.
Though he agreed on that one notion, that was about all the two had in common, as their solutions differed.
“If you are a girl, you are intended to be a girl,” Bulso said. “If you are a boy, you are intended to be a boy, and if there is some underlying dysfunction between someone and what sex they are, that is something that needs to be addressed from a mental health perspective.”
Bulso, the sponsor of a bill to officially define ‘sex’ in the Tennessee code as what you were born as, argued it does not affect the transgender community. Instead, he said it’s just to line up the state code with previous laws.
“Frankly, the legislation we’ve passed this year has been very pro-family,” Bulso said.
Wilder disagreed, citing the importance of language and acceptance.
“You need to take a look at your own legislation and re-read it, and that’s not to be brutal or mean,” he said. “But truly, to understand that language is very, very important, and the way in which we use it shows respect for one another.
“When we rob other people of the language that they use to define themselves, we’re saying that they don’t matter in our vocabulary.”
But mutant or not, Wilder contends his community belongs.
“From the science and everything, yeah, maybe my identity is mutant. That’s fine. I belong here though,” he said. “I’m still a Tennessean.”
A Tennessean, he reminds, who has a vote.