Only days after a Wisconsin elementary school was forced to cancel a reading of I Am Jazz, a book about a transgender girl, students at a neighboring high school banded together to show that their community isn’t a hateful one.
Mount Horeb Primary Center had scheduled the reading because a child had recently come out as transgender, but after Christian legal defense group Liberty Counsel threatened a lawsuit, they called it off. But this morning, Mount Horeb High School’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance stood with 200 supporters at the school’s flagpole and read aloud from the book.
Some students handed out purple and white ribbons while others handed out stickers and held a sign that read “Close the book on hate.” Despite a light snowfall, organizers said the turnout was so large that they had run out of ribbons.
The reading was introduced by SAGA member Claire Jenkins, who praised the 6-year-old Mount Horeb Primary Center student whose gender transition from a boy to a girl prompted the elementary school to organize the initial reading at that school.
“This is a day to show a little girl that we support her,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins also read from a statement from the girl’s family, which read in part, “Our family would like to thank the community for their overwhelming support.”
Also in attendance was Rep. Sondy Pope, who co-authored a bill that would require school boards to adopt policies on transgender students.
In its letter of protest, Liberty Counsel made a series of transphobic, inaccurate claims that the Wisconsin State Journal itself debunks in one piece from a series called Being Transgender in Wisconsin. For example: being trans is not a phase, a fad, or a state of disordered confusion. From reporter Doug Erickson:
“I know people honestly worry, ‘Is it a fad?'” said Dr. Jennifer Rehm, a pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in treating transgender youth. “I think those kids have been there all the time, it is just that the awareness has changed.”
Dr. Kathy Oriel said she has had patients transitioning as late as in their 60s and 70s who described knowing in very early childhood that their assigned genders at birth did not conform to what they considered their true genders.
“Those are exceedingly consistent stories,” said Oriel, a family physician with UW Health who has treated transgender patients for more than 20 years. “So it’s not that there’s anything medically different about kids today. It’s that these kids are getting parental support and are being given language to identify and claim who they are at a much younger age.”
As the story of the elementary school student makes its way around, larger outpourings of support are sure to follow. Here’s hoping that even though this little girl didn’t get the affirmation she deserved at school, she can see it all over the country.