By Karen Workman with The New York Times
A transgender high school student in Missouri is facing backlash from her peers after requesting to use the girls’ bathrooms and locker room.
More than 100 students at Hillsboro High School, about an hour south of St Louis, walked out of class on Monday in protest.
“I’m hoping this dies down,” said Lila Perry, the 17-year-old who began identifying as a girl publicly in February. “I don’t want my entire senior year to be like this.”
Ms. Perry, who began feeling “more like a girl than a boy” when she was 13, said school officials gave her permission to use the girls’ facilities as the new school year began.
The district’s superintendent, Aaron D. Cornman, issued a statement saying the district “accepts all students no matter race, nationality/ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.”
The student protest came on the heels of a school board meeting on Thursday attended by so many parents it had to be moved to a bigger location.
“My goal is for the district and parents to have a policy discussion,” said Derrick Good, a lawyer who has two daughters in the district and wants students to use either facilities based on their biological sex or other gender-neutral facilities.
Ms. Perry previously used a unisex faculty bathroom, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Mr. Good said he got involved after hearing about a female student who encountered “an intact male” in the girls’ locker room.
“It’s a violation of my daughters’ rights to privacy to not have a policy,” he said.
The protesting students assembled outside the school for about two hours. Mr. Cornman said he did not believe any of them were penalized.
Ms. Perry, who dropped out of the physical education class that prompted her use of the girls’ locker room, spent the two hours in her guidance counselor’s office.
“I was concerned about my own safety,” she said.
She said she knows of other, younger transgender students in the district and wants to open a dialogue so they have a better high school experience.
“It feels really awful that people are going to these extremes against me, not just in school but all over the Internet,” Ms. Perry said. “But I’ve also received so much support. It feels really surreal to be in the middle of all of this.”
The Missouri Gay-Straight Alliance Network will host a rally supporting Ms. Perry on Friday.
“I think that there are a lot of folks that don’t understand the difference between sex and gender and only see Lila as her sex at birth,” said Morgan Keenan, the group’s founding director.
It’s not the first case to stir public debate about the matter.
A 13-year-old transgender student at a junior high school in Idaho was given permission to use the girls’ bathrooms earlier this year, prompting a parent to remove a student from the school, according to KBOI-TV.