A 12-year-old transgender student delivered a powerful speech about equality to school officials after a female high-schooler claimed that trans-inclusion in her school’s locker rooms would prevent her from participating in PE.
Seventh-grader Ari Bowman made the statement at a meeting of the East Penn School District Monday night. He hoped his words would counteract those of ninth-grader Sigourney Coyle, who recently argued that she would rather fail gym than change in front of her trans classmates.
“The hate that the transgender community has been receiving lately has been terrible,” Bowman began. “People say things without an open mind and as if we’re not human beings like they are.”
Bowman, who started using male pronouns in fifth grade but came out as trans this past summer, explained to district officials that Coyle’s fears were blown way out of proportion.
“I change in the boy’s locker room and I have seen zero genitalia, which is kind of why I do not understand that people make the assumption that a transgender student would accidentally reveal herself in the locker room,” he said.
He reflected on his experiences prior to his transition when female classmates would refuse to let him use the girl’s bathroom: “They didn’t care that I had female genitalia. They cared that I looked masculine and was male at heart.”
“I hope you understand what being transgender means,” Bowman concluded. “It doesn’t make me any less or any more. It makes me me. And no one can change that.”
Ari’s mom, Alisa, shared video of the speech on Facebook where it has since been viewed thousands of times.
“I was sobbing along the way,” Alisa told BuzzFeed News. “I sort of knew what his speech was going to be, but some different things came out of him that night that totally blew me away.”
In addition to Bowman, 15 others, including a Presbyterian minister, spoke out in support of trans students at the meeting.
“It was more than I ever could have dreamed,” Alisa continued. “People just took it upon themselves to stand up for the trans community and vulnerable students in general. Up until Monday night I felt on the defensive and scared. Then I felt, ‘Wow, there’s so much support out there.’”
East Penn School District Superintendent Michael Schilder also spoke and promised “to uphold the rights of transgender students and to support them in whatever way possible in their often difficult personal journey.”