Ninth-grader claims transgender kids will make her fail high school

Sep 1, 2016 at 10:49 a.m. ET
Image: Curraheeshutter/Getty Images

We've heard some pretty crazy anti-transgender arguments, but this latest one has to take the prize for the most ridiculous. One Pennsylvania teenager has said she will fail high school if she's required to share a locker room with students who identify as transgender.

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Freshman Sigourney Coyle attended a meeting on Aug. 22 with the East Penn School Board and declared that she'd skipped her middle school gym class following the recent directive on trans issues. The directive — based on the Obama administration's interpretation of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex — included a requirement of public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms, showers and other public facilities that corresponded with the gender they identify with. If schools fail to comply with this, they risk losing federal funding.

Coyle's mother, Aryn, posted a video online, revealing what the teen said at the meeting: "I am a woman, and I identify as a woman, and you can’t make me change in front of someone who I don’t identify with, who is physically male."

High school students are required to participate in gym class to pass. So Coyle's reasoning is that if she refuses to share changing facilities with transgender students, she cannot change for gym, she cannot participate in gym, and she therefore cannot pass high school. And she's laying the blame for this hypothetical outcome solely at the feet of transgender students.

In protecting the rights of transgender students, the school is discriminating against Coyle, the teen and her mom claim. They say that undressing in front of someone who is biologically male before marriage is a violation of their religious beliefs. Coyle states that she has "nothing against transgenders" but wants to be treated as equal to them. Currently she believes that their rights "overrule" her own rights to bodily privacy.

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In a statement, the East Penn School District said it will continue to abide by all Title IX regulations regarding nondiscrimination of students and believes it is fully complying with the law at the present time.

Of course Sigourney Coyle has a right to privacy. But if she truly believes cisgender and transgender students should be treated equally — as she claims to — she needs to reconsider her position. The reality is that if a transgender student uses the female changing rooms, she may be unlikely to want to parade around naked in front of her cisgender peers. Of everyone in that changing room, she may be the one feeling the most self-conscious, the most awkward, the most uncomfortable. She may get changed in a stall, away from prying eyes, and wait until she gets home to shower.

Let's not forget that there are zero reported cases of a trans person attacking a cis person in a bathroom. However, around 70 percent of trans people have reported being denied entry, assaulted or harassed while attempting to use a restroom. Who is really in danger here?

For far too long, transgender people have had no rights. Absolutely none. Simply by being born into a cisgender body, Sigourney Coyle has had the privilege of a life without the discrimination, abuse, humiliation and harassment that go hand in hand with gender identity struggles. If Coyle considers herself to be a religious person, perhaps she could rely on her faith to give her the strength and compassion she needs to accept, and maybe even support, the students at her school who may be facing real discomfort — the lifelong discomfort of growing up in the wrong body.

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