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Wisconsin Transgender Student Profiled

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Wisconsin State Journal provides a moving profile of the transgender girl and her family who experienced an outpouring of community support in Mount Horeb this month.

A woman speaks into a microphone. Behind her is a banner that says 'Welcoming School.'
The public library reading of I Am Jazz in Mount Horeb. Image: Wisconsin State Journal

Earlier this year, the child would sob and question why she couldn’t “be a girl at school,” the article reports.

“When it came time to go to school, the dresses and sparkly headbands went back in the closet, replaced with boys clothes and a boy’s name.”

Finally,

“the girl’s 11-year-old brother appeared in the parents’ bedroom in tears. He wanted to know why his younger sibling was so sad. He said he would see her sitting on the bus silently staring out the window. His normally cheerful and chatty sibling had become withdrawn and unfocused.

“Her brother offered to contact the school’s psychologist if it meant helping his sister. That was when the family knew their plan needed to be expedited.”

Part of that plan was a classroom reading of the children’s book, I Am Jazz. The book is based on the real-life experience of transgender teen activist and reality TV star Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transgender kids.

The school moved the reading earlier in the year to support the girl’s mental health. But an out-of-state non-profit organization threatened to sue the school district.

The reading was canceled.

In response, a local parent who didn’t know the transgender girl, but was concerned for her, arranged a December 2 reading of the book at the local public library.

The new event drew an amazing 600 supportive community members. I Am Jazz co-author Jessica Herthel flew out to attend. Another reading happened outside the high school.

The family’s pastor is supportive as well, the State Journal reports.

Within days, the school board allowed the classroom reading to go ahead, and also took steps to ensure transgender students access to the restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identities.

The State Journal reports that while the 6-year-old knows there may be community members who have a problem with her dressing like a girl, so far that isn’t squashing her smile.

In related news, a revised version of the locker-room bill before the Legislature would allow gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms, but only with floor-to-ceiling partitions on the stalls.