I am not one to jump on band wagons or rush to the aid of a cause…. usually. But let me tell you a story –
I have had friends an relatives die in drunk driving accidents and when I was a kid, I wanted to do something about it. I started the Student’s Against Drunk Driving groups at Southwood High School in Shreveport Louisiana. With the aid of Mr. White, the sophomore councilor and a few teachers, we held events, went on trips, raised awareness, and even got the media involved. We made a noise and made a difference. This was 1991 – 1993
Fast forward to now… 2018. I saw a Facebook post about my former high school and I get angry. Apparently, Mr Roberts, the principle at Southwood is not allowing a transgender student, Kami Pham, dress in women’s clothing in the yearbook photos or walk with her senior class as a young woman. A call went out, thank you MIchael, to have people write to Principle Roberts – firstname.lastname@example.org – directly or to sign the petition at change.org
I did both – Below is the email I sent Mr. Roberts for what it’s worth.
Good morning Mr. Roberts,
My name is Palmer. I graduated from Southwood in 1993, founded a S.A.D.D. chapter there, and enjoyed my time there as a student. It was a shock when I heard this morning that your administration, and not to put too fine a point on it, you yourself were not affording a transgender student the same respect and right of expression I was allowed when I was a student there.
I understand completely your probable point of view; the “What If” scenarios that you might have been presented with or are imagining might be a bit extreme. I can also see the “slippery slope” argument of “if this / then that” that you might be forming but let me put it this way – This young lady, Kami Pham, was unfortunately born with a different sex organ than she should have been. She’s not asking to come to school dressed as an animal, nor is she concealing her identity, nor is she being provocative in any way.
I know the cost would be too great to reprint yearbooks, but for God’s sake, the sake of decency, the sake of the promises you made to yourself as an educator and the students you serve in that capacity, let this poor girl walk with her class mates in a manner she feels comfortable and let her make the memories we all have.
It goes beyond embarrassing photos of our youth. I am sure you as I regret a lot of photos from childhood like dated clothing, hairstyles, etc. easily dismissed. For a trans gender person later in life, a childhood photo of a transgender woman as a boy in her youth can be disheartening and a reminder that she was not allowed to be themselves once. Kami has a right to look back at her high school photos and a video of her graduation and see the young woman she was and remember how she was allowed to express herself.
Regardless of how I feel, how Kami feels, or even how you feel personally, protect your student and her future and allow her to be who she is, just for a little while, as she walks with her class.