This article originally appeared on Outsports
Editor’s note: Junior White identifies as trans gender fluid and told Outsports they prefer any pronouns. This story fluctuates the use of pronouns for Junior to reflect his identity.
A 12-year-old trans gender fluid student at Berrendos Middle School in Red Bluff, Calif., has been kicked off of the school’s boys basketball team because she requested to use girls restrooms and locker rooms in the school.
Junior White was a part of the Berrendos Matadors boys basketball team until just recently, when her parents received a letter from Antelope School District superintendent Richard Hassay saying that Junior would be allowed to use girls locker rooms. Junior is trans gender fluid, meaning she was assigned male at birth but identifies as both male and female genders and uses both male and female pronouns. Her use of the girls locker room is consistent with her gender identity.
However, Hassay went a step further that stepped outside of state law.
“Junior is no longer eligible to participate on any male only athletic teams, including basketball,” Hassay wrote to the Whites. “Junior will be eligible to participate on co-ed or female only teams.”
The problem is that AB 1266, enacted in California in 2013, allows students to participate on sports teams regardless of their gender. The state law does not say the gender of a student’s athletic team must be consistent with the locker room they choose to utilize. It reads:
“A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”
An email to Berrendos Middle School principal Jim Weber was not returned. Hassay has refused to comment to the media, telling the local Action News Now, “This is a confidential student case. I cannot release any information about this.”
To be clear, there is no “advantage” issue here. Junior was assigned male at birth but identifies as trans gender fluid. Junior wants to play on the boys teams.
Earlier this fall Junior came out to his parents as a gay boy. That’s how he identified at the time. His parents, Matt and Vanessa White, were concerned with how it would be received by the local community, so they asked Junior to hide his truth.
“That was a huge mistake,” Matt told Outsports. “I take responsibility for that.”
Even as he was destroying other teams on the football field, Junior attempted to harm himself as he didn’t know how else to express his need to share his true self.
That was a wake-up call for Matt and Vanessa. They spoke to the football coach about Junior being gay. That coach then spoke to the team captains. Together they handled it perfectly, rallying support for Junior across the team. By the end of the football season Junior felt at home.
“All of them were accepting,” Junior told Outsports.
Former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan, who lives in nearby Redding, had even visited Junior and his parents last autumn to provide some insight and inspiration to the family.
“He seems like a good kid,” O’Callaghan told Outsports of Junior, “the best player on his youth football team.”
The trouble for Junior started when he made another announcement: He was questioning his gender identity and identifying more and more as a girl.
Junior hadn’t been using any restroom facilities in school for a while because she didn’t feel comfortable walking into the boys bathroom anymore. One day at school it became impossible to avoid. So she walked into a girls bathroom. That’s when all hell broke loose.
She was reported to the principal and called out of class. She was told that she was not allowed to use any restrooms — boys or girls — in the school other than the one in the school’s main office.
That outraged Junior’s parents, who fought back. That’s when they were informed that Junior could use the girls facilities but she would no longer be allowed to play on any boys basketball teams.
Junior said his teammates want him back on the team, but the principal and superintendent simply won’t let him play.
“They’re mad at the superintendent,” Junior said of his teammates. Junior is also a competitive gymnast.
Junior has already had to watch from the sidelines as his team has continued its season. He and his friends have held signs at the games demanding that “#34” be allowed to play.
The basketball games have not been easy on Junior. At one game, Junior was harassed by a parent in the girls room, and then accosted by another woman when she walked out of the restroom, being told she is never to use a girls room again.
“Just look what they’re doing to my kid,” Matt said, simultaneously saddened and enraged.
Now Junior is simply wanting to play on the team where he feels the most comfortable — with the boys and his friends. Matt said Junior is exceptionally talented athletically and that it makes absolutely no sense to force him to compete against girls. It’s a similar issue Texas wrestler Mack Beggs faced, forced to compete against girls while identifying as a boy.
“It doesn’t matter who’s there, he stands out,” Matt said of his child who plays both sides of the football. “He’s one of the best players on offense and defense. In football he’s the fullback, and he intimidates the defense.”
In basketball, Matt added, “he jumps the highest” on the team.
Junior’s dream is to play football for Stanford University.
Junior’s plight has given rise to #ISTANDWITH34 on Twitter, which reflects Junior’s number on the boys basketball team and on the football team.
Now all Junior wants to do is play with those teams again and use the restroom where he feels most comfortable. All that’s standing in the way is a school district insistent that he now compete against girls.
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