MILTON — In 2018, Milton resident Ember Nova Quinn was dropping off her son at college when she heard about about a 19-year-old who died by suicide. Quinn couldn’t help but notice they used “they” pronouns and were named Nova, and couldn’t imagine that this student was not transgender.
Quinn came out as a trans woman in Milton the next week and made Nova her legal middle name in an effort to carry on their memory.
Quinn said she wishes she could have been an adult example for transgender kids earlier, an example she herself did not have in her youth.
“I felt really bad because here’s this kid I didn’t know that’s trying to be themselves and it’s so hard that it literally kills them,” she said.
In an effort to be that example, Quinn recently began the Milton Respects Pronouns initiative. She started wearing a pin with her pronouns on it to improve queer and trans visibility and encouraged co-workers to do the same.
The project expanded after she and another community member designed a pin that could be distributed throughout the community and features the Milton Yellow Jacket.
In recent months, through this initiative, Quinn has given pins to faculty and students in the Milton Town School District so they can display their gender pronouns.
“Of course a lot of people have commented that this doesn’t belong in schools, but by and large, I think that this is what the school wants,” she said.
The pins were also available for free at the Milton Artists' Build earlier this winter.
Quinn is outspoken about racial justice, gun control and trans rights, and her opinions to not come without backlash, as she’s had her home vandalized multiple times, and faces harassment by neighbors and strangers online.
One neighbor, Quinn said, has harassed her online by speculating on what her body parts are, misgendering her and claiming that she is mentally ill. Her home has been vandalized four times and her Black Lives Matter flag has been stolen three times, she said. A Burlington Free Press article from February 2020 details the incidents and includes a video of thieves stealing the flags.
These incidents do not stop her from advocating for trans rights and being vocal about her views on social justice issues, she said.
“I think a lot of people aren’t too thrilled that I’m in the school or even just existing, but I keep meeting trans people, so, I kind of dig it,” Quinn said. “I’m a bit of a troublemaker in Milton, but I like it that way.”
Quinn created a Milton Respects Pronouns Facebook page to educate the community on topics like the risks of misgendering, and plans to distribute pins to more organizations in Milton including Milton Schools’ Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).
She hopes to push Milton schools to adopt more LGBTQ curriculum and embrace inclusivity in schools.
“It’s important for a school to say it’s okay to be queer, trans or gay,” Quinn said. “I don’t think a lot of kids are hearing it at home.”
Editor's Note: This story was written by Sarah Sciortino, a student at the University of Vermont and a reporter for a Community News Service, a student-powered partnership with community newspapers.