Footloose and Bathroom Policy

Well, gang, I told you this campaign experience would probably give me lots more to write to you about and I was right. maxresdefault

Last week, a local school board announced an addition to its anti-discrimination policy that would allow students to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. The school board decision was an effort to comply with state law and to provide an inclusive environment for transgender students attending their school. The board sent a letter out to parents explaining the policy in the middle of May, indicating the change would take affect next school year. 

It didn’t take long for things to get ugly. A call went out over social media for those against the school board’s decision to descend upon the next meeting to express outrage. They decided to wear green to identify opposition to the policy. 

This particular district has the dubious distinction of the highest teen suicide rate in the area. I had been following a social media page that was originally supposed to be a safe space for bullied kids, their parents and supporters. However, the page soon became a place for the bullies, mostly parents, I noted. I scrolled through comments one evening and felt physically ill after reading the truly vile and mean comments. 

IMG_2451

I realized there is only one child who is actually openly Transgender at the school, and therefore  he bore the brunt of the abuse. This kid has moxie, though. 

Here’s one exchange: 

Angry individual:  Why don’t you check your birth certificate and whatever gender it says you were born, that’s reality. So you just use that bathroom. Problem solved. 

Hero kid: Well, my birth certificate says I’m 8 lbs, 6 oz, but that’s not true anymore either. So…

After hearing that our Hero Kid was going to the meeting, Sandy and I decided this kid was not going alone. We put out a call to our progressive groups and asked for people to join. We decided to wear pink or baby blue and made buttons about Love and Tolerance. To my pleasant surprise, about a dozen volunteers showed up to stand with us. They asked if I wanted to speak. I didn’t want to make it about my campaign and I decided that this time I would listen.

We arrived at the school to a sea of green shirts. They eyed us up and down as we took our place waiting for the doors to open. Soon they joined hands and began to pray for God’s blessing, for their community, for love. Then a loud, jacked up truck filled with young men growled across the parking lot and one of the occupants yelled “faggots” out the window. A man in his late 50’s to my left laughed a loud, sinister laugh, intended for our ears. A woman in our group, whose son has been bullied, told me sadly, “That’s my son’s best friend’s dad.”

IMG_2454

At that point, we decided to move to the front of the group toward the doors because we didn’t want to be relegated to the rear. Our group moved through the green shirt circle with our Hero Kid at the center. The doors were actually open, so we went right in to claim two tables at the front. Sandy and I, ever law enforcement vigilant, picked seats to allow visibility in a 360 degree radius and kept our heads on swivels. 

The superintendent called the meeting to order and began reading school business. A man behind us yelled, “We don’t care! You know why we’re here.” They had already given instruction that comments would be heard after the meeting. The board continued business as usual, despite the interruption. 

Finally, the public comment time arrived. One by one, a stream of green shirt wearing, self-professed God-fearing christians, stepped to the podium to rage against the evils of this policy. I won’t subject you to the simply ignorant, belligerent, or shocking statements—you’ve likely heard them all. What struck me as exceedingly sad was that our Hero Kid was born here. He’s a member of this community. Most have known him since he was very young and their kids have gone to school with him all their lives. As they ranted, he sat quietly just to the left of the podium. None of them called him by name. Not one even looked at him. 

footloose-villain-final

Eventually, a man who identified himself as the pastor of the local church, got up to speak. (Kenny Loggins’ Footloose began looping in my head) If, like I was, you’re hoping that he might offer some modicum of compassion, leadership, or decency, I’m sorry to disappoint. At the end of his hateful speech, he punctuated his demand to rescind the policy by threatening to resign as the girl’s basketball coach if they didn’t bend to his will. This was met with a standing ovation by the crowd. Yes, apparently the pastor’s way of standing up for his community is to quit when he’s mad.

Then our Hero Kid got up to speak. Here’s what he said: “People just have to understand that, if somebody is transgender and goes into their preferred bathroom, we just want to pee and get out. I don’t know how much more frank I can be,” he said. “I’m not interested in invading anyone’s privacy or looking at anyone’s genitals or any of that. I don’t want to do anything; I just want to go to the bathroom in peace.” And while, on the surface, using one particular restroom may not seem like a life-altering experience — which he said might cause some to feel that the inclusive policy is unnecessary — he told those in attendance that it goes much deeper than that.

“Allowing transgender students to use their bathroom of choice better protects those students, it adds a sense of comfort, and it could improve the mental health of transgender students, which is a community that has a suicide rate of 40 percent. That means that four out of every 10 trans students will commit suicide,” he said. “You may think that us going into a certain bathroom to pee doesn’t carry any weight, but it does. Affirming the identities and rights of transgender students throughout adolescence and into adulthood significantly reduces the rate of depression and suicide.”

While the applause was thunderous for every other speaker, they all sat silent for our Hero Kid. Our group of a dozen stood and clapped as loudly as possible in the face of dark glares. Sadly, the media coverage that night was lopsided. The TV coverage made great hay out of the “200 concerned parents and members of the community” all but ignoring our little group of supporters. The two local papers were split. One very similar to the TV, but thankfully, the other was fairly balanced, even quoting our Hero Kid and using pictures of our buttons. Although not an interview, the reporter heard me say the evening brought to mind the iconic photo from Brown v. Board of Education—the one with the angry white women shouting at the child walking into the school—and quoted that in her article. For me, the parallels are many.
 

The official vote on the policy will come July 17th. We’ll see if the school board sticks to its guns. My plan is to be there once again to stand with our Hero Kid. This time he won’t be speaking alone. Let’s DANCE!!!! dance-your-ass-off

Advertisements

20 thoughts on “Footloose and Bathroom Policy

  1. Thank you for taking your campaign to the uncomfortable places where it matters the most, standing up in a kid’s eyes for a kid’s life.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This story breaks my heart. I simply cannot understand how hate in the world is allowed to run amok. I guess that is the reason I don’t believe in God, because goodness knows if there really was a God, he or she would surely not allow this to continue and grow in force like it has.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Marvelous commentary about a truly disturbing and heartbreaking meeting and issue. Please contact me at Fayjacobsrb@gmail.com, if you’d like to discuss the possible reprint of this blog in Letters from CAMP Rehoboth – an LGBTQ magazine in Delaware. Check us out at http://www.camprehoboth.com. I’ve been reading your blogs for a while and I am so happy to hear you are running for office…your voice needs to be heard!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Faye. I will reach out and thank you for the offer. These types of stories, while heartbreaking, need to be told and shared so people might start to realize how ignorance fuels irrational hatred and can literally poison a community.

      Like

  4. This coming year will be the first time our baby, Noah (previously Lily), attends public school. He’s entering middle school and so excited about the world opening before him. We’ve spent time talking to the school, discussing our concerns, and we’ve been met with overwhelming individual and institutional support. They have an official policy on inclusion and safe space and all the things a parent could want for their trans kid. He’ll be allowed to use any bathroom / lockerroom, participate on any sports team, and can feel safe in knowing that the teacher, regardless of personal bias, will use his chosen name and gender rather than those given to him at birth. I’m still nervous about him attending public school, something I never thought I would agree to, especially not in middle school. At this point, however, I’m confident that this is the best way forward for him, and I’m endlessly thankful that I’ll only have to worry about normal middle school bullshit and not systemic discrimination based on gender expression.

    So glad you were there for this young person. He deserves all the love and support and he sounds like an amazing person. You, LM, are a true force for change. I respect the hell out of you and your wife and am so glad you’re on our side.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Jove, please tell Noah, we love him and still talk about what a fabulous and bright young person he is. He will be a force of nature for goodness in this world, I believe that. Our niece (the one from the NY blog last year) is once again staying with us this summer and we plan to give her all the support and space she needs to be herself. I believe their generation is going to have to save us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Big hugs to you all.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. He is a hero, I agree wholeheartedly. And I am glad he had you, your wife, and at least a dozen others to support him. Hatred is a disease, and it is being promoted with a vengeance beyond my wildest imagination. I hope that on the 17th at the next meeting, you will have more supporters to band around that young hero!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Auntwheezie's Blog and commented:
    The ignorance and intolerance of the so called Christian community, whether it is fundamentalist/evangelical or not, is absolutely mind boggling. So many youth in the US commit suicide and suffer from mental health issues in part because they have no recourse or ability to reach out due to the antiquated, fear mongering. They are not homophobic because they do not fear they are assholes hiding behind a book of fairy tales and they refuse to question to learn.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You and Sandy are doing the truly tough work of showing up and supporting this young man. The three of you exemplify courage and bravery in confronting ignorance-based hatred. You are role models for those of us who watch, write, and pray our words will be powerful enough to change minds and hearts. Please let your sister Pennsylvanians know if/what we can do to help you during your campaign for public office.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Renee. I will keep you up to date on what’s happening and if there is anything others can help with statewide. I was just in Harrisburg at a candidate forum and you should know that there are no less than 5 (possibly more) queer candidates for statewide office this year! What a dramatic change to the face of the PA General Assembly it would be if we are fortunate enough to all make it. Historic wouldn’t even do it justice. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Heartbreaking to read, and yet uplifting to know you’d taken action and gathered a support gang, good on you! Such a huge waste of emotional energy that queer folk need to deal with this crap daily, all over the world ❤

    Liked by 2 people

Comments are closed.