A group of 150 students walked out of Hillsboro High School in Missouri on Monday in a protest over a transgender classmate’s use of the girls’ locker room and bathrooms at the school.
Lila Perry, 17, a senior at the school, came out as a female last February. She had been using the girls’ locker room, but ended up dropping out of gym class after the angry response her use of the changing room received from some parents and students.
Perry did receive support from about 30 to 40 classmates during the walk-out. Parents also attended the protest.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Perry Has Identified as Female Since She Was 13
Perry said she has identified as a female since she was 13.
“There’s a lot of ignorance, they are claiming that they’re uncomfortable. I don’t believe for a second that they are. I think this is pure and simple bigotry,” said Perry told KMOV-TV.
2. She Said She Came Out as Female Because She Was Tired of Hiding Her True Self
Perry was living as a gay male until she came out as female last February, she told Fox 2 Now.
Last year, she used a gender-neutral bathroom and was not in a physical education class, so she did not have to use the locker room. She said she wanted to fit in with the other girls this year, so she started using the girls’ bathroom and the locker room during gym class.
After parents and students protested, Perry dropped the gym class.
“I’m not going to hurt their daughters. I’m not going to expose myself. I’m not a pervert; I’m a transgender woman; I’m a girl,” Perry told Fox 2 Now. “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.”
Perry said she has been bullied and attacked on social media, and fears violence if she used the boys bathroom or locker room.
3. She Was Locked in the Principal’s Office During the Walkout
Perry was locked inside the principal’s office during the walkout and protest out of fear for her safety, KMOV reports.
“It wasn`t too long ago white people were saying I don`t feel comfortable sharing a bathroom with a black person and history repeats itself,” Perry told Fox 2 Now.
Parents and students have expressed concern that while Perry identifies as female, she still has male genitalia. GLAAD says that a person’s gender is not determined by his or her genitalia.
“This is private medical information, and a transgender identity is not dependent on medical procedures,” GLAAD says. “Overemphasizing the medical aspects of a person’s transition objectifies transgender people, and prevents the public from seeing the transgender person as a whole person.”
Student Sophie Beel told Fox 2 Now, “I find it offensive because Lila has not went through any procedure to become female, putting on a dress and putting on a wig is not transgender to me.”
During the protest, 47-year-old Jeff Childs held up a sign that said “Girls Rights Matter,” and also painted that phrase on the sides and tailgate of his truck. He brought the truck onto school property, but was asked to leave by police, so he held the poster near the entrance to the school, off property.
“This needs to stop before it goes too far,” Childs told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He said he has a niece and nephew at an elemntary school in Hillsboro “I’m not trying to be ignorant, but (Perry) is bringing it out in public for everybody else to deal with.”
4. A Parent Drafted a Policy That Would Create a Gender-Neutral Facility for Perry
Parents have brought the issue before the local school board and have called for a new policy.
“They should have the ability to do whatever they need to do in the privacy of the bathroom without having a male in there,” Derrick Good, a parent of two girls at the school and an attorney, told KFOR. “They have a right to their own bodily privacy, and I’ve raised my girls, and many of these parents have raised their girls, to protect that privacy. They don’t share that with members of the opposite sex.”
Some parents also expressed a fear that Perry was pretending to be a girl in order to get into the locker room.
“That’s really important for many people to know and parents to know, that a person does not choose this, they really don’t. They know it very early on and are in a great deal of pain,” said Patricia Berne, a gender therapist, told KMOV.
The school board has not taken any action on the matter.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, districts that do not allow students to use a bathroom for the gender with which they identify could risk losing federal funding from the Department of Education.
Districts that refuse to allow students to use a bathroom for the gender with which they identify could run afoul of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, said Kelli Hopkins of the Missouri School Boards’ Association.
“The Office of Civil Rights has issued an opinion that says, if you do this, you have engaged in gender discrimination,” Kelli Hopkins, of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, told the Post-Dispatch. “At the same time, there is no case law or statute in Missouri that says this is against the law.”
5. Perry Said the School District Has Been Understanding and Accommodating to Her
Perry has said that the school administration has been supportive of her and has allowed her to use the girls’ bathroom. She told Fox 2 Now that the district has been on 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 of making her feel safe.
Some students did support Perry during the walkout and protest.
“She is such a good person. They are just judging her on the outside,” Skyla Thompson, 16, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“She is choosing her life to better herself, to better accept herself,” Gianna Warfel, 16, told the Post-Dispatch. “I don’t know what there is to discriminate about that. I really support the bravery she has.”