Transgendered student spurs debates in Missouri

The use of a girls’ high school locker room by a transgender teen has sparked a debate and divide in a Missouri town.

Lila Perry is a 17-year-old transgender teen who began to feel like a girl at age 13 and began to change her physical appearance when classes started in August.

Perry began using the girls’ locker room at Hillsboro High during her senior year to change for gym as she, like any other girl, wears skirts, makeup and styles her hair. Perry’s school offered her a single-occupancy restroom, but she did not want to use it because she did not want to feel segregated from the rest of her peers.

Perry was clearly seen as unwelcome in the locker room in less than two weeks of school. Many students were uncomfortable as they saw Perry as a boy in a wig changing in the girls’ locker room. These students gossiped about her in the halls, complained to teachers, principals and even parents.

The debate began at an August school board meeting where a Hillsboro native, Derrick Good, spoke on behalf of a group of parents.

“Girls have a right to privacy of their own bodies, and parents have a right to raise their children the way they want,” Good said.

Even students staged a walkout to “give the students a voice.”

When Perry found out about the protests, she dropped out of gym class. On Fri., however, Perry, with help from others, held her own rally.

“When it comes to bathroom access for transgender students, guidance is pretty clear as far as the federal government and LGBT advocacy groups are concerned: Kids should be allowed to use the restroom and changing room that matches their gender identity,” CNN.com said.

Senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, Alison Gill, said that students can use unisex or single occupancy bathrooms if they would like to, but it should be their choice, not the school’s.

Missouri as a state does not have any laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in education. The Hillsboro School District’s anti-discrimination policy makes no reference to gender identity.

Despite all that is going on around her, Perry is staying strong.

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