Hundreds of St. Louisans have pledged to rally around Lila Perry, a transgender student at Jefferson County’s Hillsboro High School.
A gathering called “Lifting up Lila” was set for 5 p.m. Sept. 4, in Hillsboro City Park. Supporters want to have their say after a group of students walked out in protest Monday when Perry said she planned to use the girls’ bathrooms and locker room. On Thursday night, a group of parents asked the school board to create a policy about who can use what restrooms.
But Morgan Keenan, who heads Missouri’s Gay-Straight Alliance Network, said this evening's event isn’t about just one issue.
“It’s very important for us to make sure that we stay away from this idea that it’s about changing-rooms or any of that stuff; it’s about people living their lives and living those lives authentically and being themselves and being comfortable,” Keenan said.
More than 800 people joined the event on Facebook. One group rented a bus to take them there from St. Louis.
Keenan hopes the gathering will help educate the public and also show other transgender teenagers they’re not alone.
‘We know that she’s not the only person going through this and that Hillsboro is not like a special ‘thing.’ It’s actually happening in other places,” Keenan said.
The event was not not meant to confrontational.
“It’s supposed to be uplifting. That’s part of the reason the title, ‘Lifting Up,’” Keenan said.
Keenan emphasized that students and parents who aren’t comfortable with Perry using the girls’ facilities are not simply being mean spirited.
“What’s happened is they’ve been socialized about certain ways to think about sex and gender,” Keenan said. “They’ve been conflating the two and pushing them together and saying, ‘These are the same things,’ and they’re not.”
The American Psychological Association defines “sex” as having to do with a person’s genitalia, reproductive organs and chromosomes, while “gender” is associated with attitudes, feelings and behaviors.
The Hillsboro School District has not yet returned calls asking for its response.
Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL