Kasey Caron, a senior at Richland High School in Johnstown, PA, did some very brave things recently: he decided to run for homecoming court, and he decided to publicly come out as transgender. Initially, the school didn't seem to have a problem with Kasey running for the boy's court.
"As I'm sure you all know," Kasey wrote, "we will soon be voting for the students who will be on this year's homecoming court. Now, Richland is doing an awesome thing this year by recognizing and allowing me to run for homecoming court as a male. This is a big deal to me, since all my life I have been trying desperately to fit into a male role, and just be one of the guys. For those of you who are unaware, I identify as a FTM (female to male) transgender … This is the first time I have really come out and said this publicly. Most of my close friends already know, and I've been listed as male on Facebook for years, but I suppose now is a really good time to just get this out there. I honestly don't expect to get enough votes to get on court in the first place, but just know that every vote, no matter how few it is, means the absolute world to me. Its really not about getting on court at all for me, but about the support. Vote for me to show your support, and really to show Richland and other schools in the area that it's okay to be yourself, even if the world doesn't quite understand you. Gender isn't about what's between your legs, it's about what's between your ears, and what's in your heart."
Richland High School didn't have a problem with Kasey running for homecoming as a male … until he was actually elected by his classmates. Then there was a problem.
Now citing "Pennsylvania law" (although not specifying exactly which statute that would be), the school insisted that Kasey could only participate on the homecoming court as a member of the girl's court, reports local newspaper the Tribune-Democrat. The school said that because Kasey's driver's license lists him as female, then he can't be on the boys' homecoming court.
Related: 14 reasons why kids are definitely smarter than Congress
Seriously, exactly what Pennsylvania law would that be? Is that under the Pennsylvania Education Code, or is that something I missed in the driver's manual? And if Pennsylvania lawmakers have the time to legislate homecoming courts, perhaps they could allocate some time to figuring out how to restore funding to our public schools. Oh, and maybe they could take a look at the disaster that is now the Philadelphia School District. Frankly, as a Pennsylvania taxpayer, I'm far more concerned that there are 48 kids in a class in Philly than I am about what happens at a dance in Johnstown.
Kasey spoke up at a school board meeting this week, throwing a legal argument of his own onto the table:The Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act, which prohibits discrimination. Kasey also showed that that his Pennsylvania driver's license has been corrected to reflect his legal status as male. There is a video of Kasey making his statement, captured by The Tribune-Democrat.
"The law defines whether a person is male or female unto Pennsylvania," says school board solicitor Tim Leventry in the video. "It says that if you have male or female, you know, genitalia, things of this nature, you're one or the other. If you want to be changed to be a male legally in Pennsylvania, you have to be certified by a physician that does this work, and then have your birth certificate changed. That's the law."
When Kasey and supporters asked for the specific clause in state law mandating an amended birth certificate, the solicitor became exasperated, reported The Advocate.
"We're not writing a legal brief here," said Mr. Leventry. "No, I don't have those in front of me to cite to you." Mr. Leventry then declined to disclose the name of the board's legal counsel.
Johnstown, located in Cambria County in western Pennsylvania, is considered a fairly traditional area. And by "fairly traditional," I mean that one of its own Congressional representatives, John Murtha, infamously described the area in 2008 as "racist" and "really redneck." But that was five years ago, and obviously times have changed, at least for the younger members of the community.
The students voted Kasey onto the homecoming court. Kasey says that the vast majority of students and teachers in the school accept him as male. Why does it need to be more complicated than that? Possibly because a small number of people have a problem with what is referred to as "that type of lifestyle."
"No person should be excluded from the rules," Megan McKnight told the Tribune-Democrat. "I don't want my children exposed to that type of lifestyle. It is not that I am not accepting, but some of us just believe in that."
Immediately after stating that it's not that she's "not accepting," McKnight went on to say that she will consider putting her children in private school if Kasey is allowed to be on the male ballot.
Kasey Caron isn't asking to be excluded from the rules. He's asking to be included, which the law very much says he should be.
By Joslyn Gray