Trans Lives Matter: Students stand up for human rights in Marion County

by Nich Rardin

Trans rights are human rights.

It’s not complicated. There’s no secret agenda, or diabolical plan to overthrow the cis-gendered population—just equality, something that is promised here in America, but has to be fought for.

The transgendered community isn’t some new idea thought up by Generation Y to add more confusion to the world. They have been around since the beginning, the same as every other gender and orientation. They are your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers. Not monsters that live under your bed like some people want you to believe. They are human, just like you.

On April 26, the Marion County School Board set forth a policy that banned transgendered individuals from using the restroom that aligns with their gender and forces them to use the restroom that corresponds with their birth sex instead.

This policy only came into play after *one* student, Harrell Phillips, made a complaint about a transgendered student using the male restroom at Vanguard High School—which this student has been using throughout the year with permission from our principal, John Kerley.

My name is Nich Rardin and I attend Vanguard High School. While this policy does not affect me directly, it does affect my community, the LGBTQ+ community. The passing of this policy upset not only members of the transgendered community but its allies as well. I felt that something needed to change, rapidly. Aware that there is a defined strength in numbers, I needed a plan of action. So, within 24 hours of the policy being passed with a 4 to 1 vote, I began to organize what would unknowingly grow into a protest.

This protest was the result of a large-scale collaboration between roughly 60 students, many of whom attend Vanguard, along with students of various Marion County high schools. Over the 3 days preceding the actual demonstration, I unintentionally became the spokesperson and representative of the protest.

We faced a lot of challenges while organizing the protest, mainly from the school itself. The resistance came from a fear that we would have a walk out during 6th period, at 1:50 pm, which was the original plan. We realized this would be seen as an on-campus disturbance, and decided against it. Yet, we still faced unnecessary and completely fabricated concerns.

One student in opposition to our movement began spreading rumors of a school shooting, with the sole purpose of deterring the entire protest. Sparking suspicion and fear, this rumor understandably resulted in a smaller outcome of students who were willing to participate than those who initially committed.

I believed that it was a necessity to have this peaceful protest publicized and seen by as many people as we could reach. I contacted multiple news outlets and newspapers to come out and cover the story.

Clad in homemade “Trans Lives Matter” t-shirts, colored blue and pink to represent the genders, the band of us marched in front of Vanguard waving posters and banners, encouraging observers to show support. After the school carline had died down we walked half a mile to a major highway (441) and protested until 6 pm.

The goal of this was not to reverse the School Board’s decision, as that would be an unrealistic one, but to bring attention to those who had been silenced, and to give them a voice. We wanted to show how many people were opposed to the decision of the school board, and that the majority is *not, * in fact, supportive of it.

This policy is not about protection- it’s about control and fear of the unknown.

EDITORS’ NOTE: At press time, the Marion County School Board dug in its heels and said the transgender bathroom ban will continue, despite the Obama administration’s warning to all school districts that such discriminatory policies could result in a loss of federal funding and/or a lawsuit. Meanwhile, Alachua County schools are already in compliance with Obama’s directive and include gender identity in the district’s nondiscrimination policy. 

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