Wichita transgender woman to Marion student: ‘Keep standing up proud’

A student at Marion High School painted a rainbow flag in his parking spot over the weekend. Painting parking spots at the school is part of an ongoing tradition. The choice of painting caused controversy in the small town. (Photo courtesy KSN News)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wichita woman is sharing her story as a transgender lesbian in hopes of helping the Marion teen in the center of a pride parking spot controversy.

The controversy started on Sunday after a Marion High School student painted a rainbow flag on his school parking spot. On Thursday morning, the spot was covered in a tar-like substance. Police believe it was vandalized.

Activist Brenda Way, 52, said she was shocked and disturbed about the incident.

“I am just so fed up with seeing the hate in this country for my community. Granted that’s in Marion, Kansas, but that is still my community. Those are still my people,” said Way. “I’m thinking, why? This person just did something so brave and so proud and you’re going to tear him down.”

Way is a proud transgender lesbian. However, she lived a dark life before coming out as transgender in 2014.

“Before I came out, I was very angry. I was picked on and teased when I was younger, called homo, faggot, all that stuff. I was beat up regularly,” Way said. “There were times when I could feel my father not care for who I am because I was different, I wasn’t a masculine boy that he wanted.”

Way said at one time she became very hateful of the gay community.

“I was so unfair and so unjust in judging them without ever knowing any of them,” Way said.

She eventually found the strength to admit who she was. However, it wasn’t an easy transition.

“I lived the first four months of my transition underneath Maple Street bridge by the river,” she said.

Way started making connections with others in the LGBTQ community. She helped found the Wichita Transgender and Community Network (WITCO) and made a pact with herself to help others and be a voice for change.

“I told myself that I need to fight for these people and for everybody in the LGBTQ community,” she said.

Way said she hopes her story will help the Marion teen and encourage him to ignore the hate.

“Find support and people who love you for who you are and just keep standing up proud,” Way said.

The Marion High School principal said the rainbow painted parking spot will stay. Police are searching for the person or people responsible for the vandalism.

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