Bathroom Access for Transgender Teen Divides Missouri Town (VIDEO!)
(CNN)Missouri transgender teen Lila Perry says she began to feel like a girl when she was 13 and started appearing as one in school this year when classes began in August.
The 17-year-old Hillsboro High School senior wears skirts, makeup and a long wig styled with bobby pins. She even started using the girls’ locker room to change for gym class, despite the school’s offer of a single-occupancy restroom.
“I am a girl. I am not going to be pushed away to another bathroom,” she told CNN affiliate KPLR.
In less than two weeks, however, it became clear she was not welcome in the locker room.
Because Perry has male anatomy, many students simply see her as a boy in a wig changing in the girls’ locker room — and that makes them uncomfortable. They whispered about her in hallways, complained to faculty and told their parents, who brought it up at the school board meeting on August 27.
In a petition read aloud, one parent asked the board to stop extending privileges to “confused teenagers who want to be something they are not sexually” at other students’ expense. Another parent, insinuating that the board was avoiding liability, asked which side it would support if he sues them for violating his right to “parent” as he chooses.
When they didn’t get the response they had hoped for, a group of students organized a walkout Monday with their parents’ support. The protest made national headlines, casting a large spotlight on this small town of 2,900 people about 30 miles south of St. Louis with “more wild mice than people,” as one resident described Hillsboro.
In response, Perry and her supporters organized a rally Friday at Hillsboro Park where she addressed the controversy. She thanked her classmates for bringing attention to her story and giving her a platform “to be a part of helping and inspiring other trans and gender nonconforming young people.”