This School Year it’s More Important Than Ever to Support Trans Children

Lila Perry just wanted to use the school facilities that match her gender identity, but this school year she’s faced parents and kids campaigning against her outside her school, something no young adult should ever have to deal with.

Perry, who attends Hillsboro High School in Missouri, came out as transgender last year. Now 17 and a senior, she has requested that she be able to use the female restroom and changing facilities like any other girl her age. Up until now the school has allowed her to use unisex staff facilities, but this has led to Perry feeling ostracized and so she wanted this change. It’s a simple request, and the school reportedly backed that request.

Unfortunately, a handful of parents with kids who go to the school have taken it upon themselves to start a campaign against Perry under the guise of safety concerns for their daughters. Events culminated this past week with a demonstration outside the school of around 200 children and some parents. Reports differ on exactly how many pupils were there to protest Perry’s use of the female facilities, how many were actually in support of her rights, and how many joined the protest as a way to skip classes. Regardless, several parents showed up, some of whom brandished signs such as “Girls Right’s Matter” [sic] and more. You can see pictures of the protest here.

And here’s a news report about what has happened:

Unfortunately, this case has also attracted the attention of the so-called Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group of choice for religious conservatives. The group has reportedly sent a letter to the district asking that it change its mind about allowing Perry to use the facilities that accord with her gender expression:

“Allowing students to use opposite-sex restrooms and locker rooms would seriously endanger students’ privacy and safety, undermine parental authority, violate religious students’ free exercise rights, and severely impair an environment conducive to learning,” the letter says. “These dangers are so clear-cut that a school district allowing such activity would clearly expose itself to tort liability. Consequently, we strongly encourage your District to reject polices and advice from groups like the ACLU that force students to share restrooms and locker rooms with members of the opposite sex.”

The letter does not give an explanation of precisely how the School District is left more vulnerable beyond a great deal of colorful language and one can also not escape the fact that the ADF here seems to be making the vaguest of legal threats that someone will take the district to court unless it backs down. This might sound like paranoia but such legal action by the ADF is well-documented and the ADF has reportedly supported bills in several states that would criminalize trans people for using the restrooms that accord with their gender identity.

First and foremost however, the letter does not give a satisfactory explanation as to how allowing Perry to access the facilities she requires violates anyone else’s privacy (an argument that is doubly unsound given that the school reportedly provides stalls for changing). Where the ADF attempts to justify its argument it relies on case history from the 1980s and 1990s that does not directly relate to current school policy and which is no longer relevant given how the legal landscape has developed since then, particularly regarding Title IX and Title VII applications for trans rights, something you can read more about here. The basic point about this application of the Civil Rights Act is that the Department of Education has specifically said that Title IX covers discrimination against trans students. As such, Hillsboro was complying with the law when it decided to implement this change and while the ADF may argue that there is no specific requirement that schools open up gendered facilities to trans kids, the spirit of the legislation is very clear in that regard: Trans children should be treated the same way as their birth/gender aligned peers.

What we have then is a group of adults singling out a young trans woman, implying she is a sexual and physical threat to other students, and vaguely threatening lawsuits to bully a school district that did the right thing by accommodating that young adult’s modest desire to be treated like her schoolmates and not singled out.

It’s worth highlighting that Perry has now dropped out of PE class and will not change with other girls at the high school, but apparently this is still not enough for those opposed to her living her life gender aligned, and protests are set to continue until the school district takes further action.

“I’m not going to hurt their daughters,” Perry told reporters. “I’m not going to expose myself. I’m not a pervert; I’m a transgender woman; I’m a girl. I’m just in there to change, do my business, and that if they have any questions about being transgender, they are more than welcome to talk to me, and I’ll be happy to explain it.”

There are reports of other schools facing similar protestations for having allowed trans students to use the facilities that accord with their gender identity. This appears to be an escalation of of anti-trans feeling that we’ve seen elsewhere in the country. This probably also relates to the heightened profile around trans rights due to the convergence of several elements, including more visibility for trans people in the media, as well as the general shift to focusing on trans rights several LGBT rights organizations have made.

This is why it is important to stand by trans children this year because we know that nurturing and gender affirming environments mean trans kids are far more likely to stay in school and get the education they deserve.

Take Action

Sign our Care2 petition and let every school district in the United States know that you we stand with kids like Lila Perry who should be able to go about their education free from discrimination and threats to their safety.

Photo credit: Image taken from KMOV.com news broadcast under Fair Use.

82 comments

Karen C.
Karen C3 years ago

All schools should support humans. If they're transgender, agender, genderfluid, bigender, pangender, intergender, epicene, genderqueer, cisgender, etc. SUPPORT THEM.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Only Me
Only Me3 years ago

To anyone who believes (as some of the comments below suggest) that being gay, or trans, is something that the individual chooses, rather than something that is innate, I would ask why they think someone would choose to become the focus of so much anger and intolerance? It is hardly a secret that members of the LGTB community have suffered discrimination and hate crimes, do you not think that these people whom you criticise so freely are only too aware of the hostility they are likely to encounter? If it were a matter of choice wouldn't these people, who simply want to live their lives peacefully, choose to be straight or remain as their birth-assigned gender instead? There is no greater proof required, that it is not a matter of choice, than the fact that so many people are prepared to travel what is often a long, difficult and often lonely path simply to be true to themselves.

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Oliver Webb
Only Me3 years ago

For anyone who might still imagine LGBT people are some kind of alien species I can assure them we are exactly like everyone else. If people choose not to believe that to be true – just as they might choose not to believe the world isn’t flat – there is little I can do; wanton ignorance is difficult to counter. The one unifying feature common to all LGBT people is that they all know what it is like to be arbitrarily discriminated against, to encounter open and irrational hostility ahead of even the scantest effort to know them. In short they have experienced bullying at the hands of bullying bigots.

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Oliver Webb
Only Me3 years ago

Timothy W sums it up perfectly.

The primitive idea that being LGBT is some kind of voluntary fad or fashion choice, or worse a defect, is long overdue for consignment to the rubbish bin of bigotry. It is a fact, whether certain members or groups of society choose to accept it or not, that one’s sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent – few heterosexual people would claim to have opted for their sexual preferences as a matter of choice!

The LGBT community has always been numerically a minority group in the world's population and, historically, that alone has been enough to make it a target for those who prefer not to make the effort to see and understand. "Different" is so often automatically equated with "Wrong". The mental progression from "I do not understand", directly to "Therefore I hate" is a pitiful one and one that governments and religions ought to be doing their utmost to educate out of those people over whom they have influence. Governments, at least, seem to demonstrate some ability towards progressive thinking, but sadly the same cannot always be said of religions. How many lives have been lost through the centuries as one set of believers slay another? If God exists the poor devil (oops, there goes my seat in heaven) must be tearing her/his hair out in despair! Can religions really not find anything in the world more worthy of their attention than persecuting people for falling in love with the person of their choice?

For anyone

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman3 years ago

To all those who believe that being homosexual is a choice:

Why and when did you decide to be heterosexual?

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Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

Cyan D, I’d love to know how someone can be recruited to be LGBT. Please enlighten me.
I can’t add any more to what Timothy said. Sorry I can only give you one star; you deserve a galaxy!

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell3 years ago

Thank you

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Timothy W.
Timothy W3 years ago

One can learn to be a bigot, or a hate filled person. They can learn religion and the discrimination that all to often goes with it. They can learn this is how a boy behaves and dresses and this is how a girl behaves and dresses. They can't learn their sexual identity or their Gender identity. These are things that are part of us.

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Timothy W.
Timothy W3 years ago

Cyan D.
First of all. Homosexuals can reproduce. It might not be as enjoyable as it is for breeders, but it can be done. I have, and I am very much gay. Also you need to get it through your thick skull. Homosexuals are not convinced or recruited. They are born as was I. No one ever tried to convince me to be gay. No one ever tricked me into being gay. Many like you have tried to convince me otherwise to no avail. I would have chosen to be heterosexual when I was younger if I could have. Who wouldn't? I would have avoided the hatred, bigotry and denial from people like you. What the F*#*k makes you people think anyone would choose to live a life where they would have to deal with hate filled spiteful bigoted people like you just so they could have the privilege of fighting for every right they get.

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