In 2010 I transferred to a new high school as a sophomore. I was a 15-year-old trans woman, a fact that did not go unrecognized by administration of my new school, who immediately told me I was the first trans student to ever attend.
The registrar had told me that in order to make me feel comfortable, I had been given open access to one of the faculty bathrooms in my fair sized high school campus with multiple floors and wings. And I used it, for a while, because I was somewhat uncomfortable in gendered spaces. Within the next year or so I had grown bolder, and more annoyed at the inconvenience and decided to stop. This also did not go unnoticed, and I soon myself staring down my principal in his office.
I was told that they had spoken with their attorney and had been told that I was legally required to use either the men’s room or non-gendered restrooms, and that if I didn’t listen I would receive detentions, and possibly more. I came prepared, with printed and highlighted court cases, state statutes, and title IX excerpts. They didn’t listen, and refused to provide notes on the meeting or confirm that they had plans to punish me.
I listened for about a week, and like before, I grew bolder, and stopped. I concurrently sent a FOIA Request for the communication between the school administration and the attorney, and after that was denied, submitted another request for a clarification of what happened in the meeting and the guidance they had given me.
I was called down to my dean’s office and told to calm down. I didn’t. I instead sent my principal a letter and CC’d every faculty member of importance at the school.
I regret to inform you that I sustained a mild head trauma some time before break, I am in fair condition and high spirits, but I must alert you to the fact that my memory was slightly affected by the incident and I have lost the ability to recall a particular event that took place in mid October, 2011.
While I am not completely able to remember the exact happenings of said event, through a series of email searches I have managed to determine that this meeting concerned my ability to use the bathroom while attending school, but I have no recollection as to what specifically happened at the aforementioned meeting.
If there happened to be anything of importance said during the October meeting concerning special instructions on how I am supposed to function within the school due to your understanding of my body or identity, I would like to know.
Due to my active role within my community, the chances of me sustaining another memory altering head injury within the near future are staggeringly high — if you and your staff would like to avoid explaining what happened in the initial meeting and subsequent meetings with great frequency, as further head injuries occur, I highly suggest that you provide me with an official letter concerning any special instructions or punitive actions to be taken against me if I fail to comply.
Since this head injury, I have used the school’s facilities as permitted by the Illinois Human Rights Act and will continue to do so until I am told differently in writing.
Please note that any punitive actions taken against me will most likely result in a filing with the Human Rights Committee, FOIA requests for all communications pertaining to the event, press releases, news tips, and the raising of community awareness.
I didn’t get called to the office anymore after this. In fact, the administration refused to speak with me until after I graduated. I didn’t get in trouble, and since I left, there have been roughly a dozen other trans kids who have gone un-bothered by the administration
Could this have gone differently, particularly if I wasn’t in a state with laws on the books to help me? Definitely. But the point is, draconian laws are much harder to enforce on people who will fight you.
If you’re a trans high schooler, have Title IX complaints typed up — yes, you can still file those — and let your administration know that you have them. Go scream at your school board until they carry you out. Show up at your principal’s office until you become a nuisance. Fax your superintendent until their machine runs out of ink. Send FOIA requests for everything you can think of, costing your school time and money.
They want us to cower, so don’t.
For parents and allied students, it is your responsibility to cause as much disruption as needed to ensure trans kids are safe and not pushed out of schools. Block bathrooms. Yell at your dean. Get escorted out of town halls and board meetings. This is something worth getting in trouble for.