Lila Perry, a student at Hillsboro High school, came out as transgender last February. She had previously been using a unisex restroom, but for her senior year Perry informed teachers and administrators at the school that she was no longer content with that arrangement, stating that she wanted to be treated like other female students and therefore would be using the girls’ restrooms and locker rooms.
“With using the staff bathroom, I felt like I was being segregated off,” Perry said. “Like, here are the boys, here are the girls, here is me. And I didn’t like that. I wanted to help blend in with all the other girls.”
A School Board meeting Thursday was packed with parents that were concerned that other students’ rights were being neglected in order to give one student special treatment.
Derrick Good, a lawyer and father of two students in the district, said he got involved in the discussion after hearing about a female student who encountered “an intact male” in the girls’ locker room. “It’s a violation of my daughters’ rights to privacy to not have a policy,” he said.
“As a parent, it’s my right to educate my child, to make decisions on when it’s appropriate for my child to understand things about the opposite sex,” he told KTVI at the school board meeting. “It’s not the school’s option to insert that at that age.”
“I wasn’t hurting anyone. I didn’t want to be in something gender-neutral,” Perry said. “I am a girl. I am not going to be pushed away to another bathroom.”
Monday morning, over 100 students at Hillsboro High School walked out of their classes in protest, assembling outside for roughly two hours.
The Post-Dispatch reported that Superintendent Aaron D. Cornman declined comment on the matter, but did hand out a written statement to reporters on-site. The statement said that the district “respects the rights of all students and appreciates the fact that the students we are educating are willing to stand on their belief system and to support their cause/beliefs through their expression of free speech.” The statement then went on to stress that the school district is accepting of all students, “no matter race, nationality/ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. We will promote tolerance and acceptance of all students that attend our district while not tolerating bullying/harassing behaviors of any type in any form.”
The students who walked out claimed that they were protesting Perry’s use of the facilities due to personal discomfort – but Perry asserts that there is another motivation behind the protests.
“I think this is pure and simple bigotry,” she said. “I think they are using their claim they are uncomfortable, to target me a transgender woman.”
During the student walk-out, Perry claims to have locked herself in her counselor’s office out of fear, and says she has dropped P.E. because she didn’t feel comfortable with the other girls and she was concerned about her safety.
I can sympathize with how Perry feels. I have transgender friends who have personally struggled with similar situations, and they felt that no matter what they decided was the appropriate way to proceed, someone was being forced to feel uncomfortable.
I typically refrain from comment on anyone who is transgender using a specific restroom – not out of fear of backlash, but rather because my opinions on the matter are not solidified and I can see legitimate concerns from both sides of the discussion. The use of a gender-specific locker room is another matter, as public undressing is involved. As Good stated, one female student reported seeing an “intact male,” meaning that Perry had exposed herself openly on at least one occasion. This begs the question of whether it is appropriate to require teenagers to be exposed to the opposite gender’s genitalia in school – not in textbooks, but in person – and to further label those teenagers as bigots for any discomfort they feel in such situations.
This was not a matter of imminent harm or even discomfort for Perry, as an alternate facility was made available to her – a facility that she denied, instead demanding access to a gender-specific one. Accommodations were made that would ensure the maximum amount of comfort for all students, but Perry was more concerned with herself than anyone else, feeling that she was entitled to the very comfort she wanted to strip from someone else. My sympathy ends at the point where causing others discomfort is comforting to you.
Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.
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