By Melanie Nathan, May 19, 2013.
It seems as if Issak Wolfe has as much of a right as anyone else to expect inclusion in his School’s mission: “The mission of the Red Lion Area School District, in partnership with our communities, is to prepare all students to reach their greatest potential, thus becoming responsible and productive citizens.” Yet Issak was denied this by his own principal – after all, to realize his potential, surely Issak ought to be respected in the most basic of realms – that is to be respected for who he IS!
In the words of Issak himself:-
By Issak Wolfe at 5:11pm 05/13/2013 – I am a high school senior at Red Lion Area High School in Pennsylvania. As a student who happens to be transgender, my life isn’t all that different from other students in my class, except that I came out the summer before my junior year and have been going by my male name ever since. I try hard to make good grades, work at a part –time job, and have a wonderfully supportive family and an awesome girlfriend. My high school, like any other, has a senior prom. Our prom always has a king and a queen, and every senior gets a spot on the ballot for royalty. This year was my turn to get a chance at king like every other boy in my class.
I took all the proper steps to secure my name on the list where it belongs: the boys’ ballot. But on the day voting started, without warning, I found that I wasn’t on the boys’ ballot – instead, my old female name was listed under candidates for prom queen. It was the most humiliating and hurtful thing that has ever happened to me at school. Soon after, I learned that my school’s principal had stepped in and changed it because he was “uncomfortable” with me being listed as a boy. What’s more, when my girlfriend complained about this on Facebook, the principal threatened to not let her go to prom with me unless she took down her statements calling him out for discrimination.With the help of the ACLU, we got the school to back down from that threat, and even though there wasn’t enough time to correct the ballots, my girlfriend and I still had a great time with our friends at prom a couple of weekends ago. But that doesn’t make up for the humiliation I experienced, and doesn’t mean that other transgender students at Red Lion won’t be treated just as disrespectfully in the future. I’ve asked for a public apology and for new policies to protect future students from gender identity discrimination at my school. And for our graduation, which is coming up on June 7, I’ve asked to be allowed to wear the boys’ cap and gown and for my male name to be read aloud when I cross the stage to pick up my diploma.
The school has agreed to let me wear the boys’ cap and gown, but won’t budge on anything else. They refuse to promise to do anything to help other kids like me, as if pretending I’m the only transgender student they’ll ever have at their school will make it so. They refuse to apologize to me, even though they know the principal’s actions were mean-spirited and hurtful. And they insist on reading my female name at graduation, even though I’m working on getting my name legally changed and most people have been calling me Issak for almost two years now. Reading my male name at graduation wouldn’t hurt anyone, but they KNOW that reading my female name only serves to hurt me more. Obviously, it’s more important to them to push around an 18-year-old than it is to make the school a safe space for its students. The students at Red Lion Area High School deserve better treatment and better adult role models than this.
While it’s too late for me to have a chance at Prom King, it’s not too late to show my school that the way it has treated me is unacceptable. My friends and I are asking supporters to sign this petition, which we’re going to present to the school board at its meeting this Thursday. ALL schools should try to be safe, welcoming spaces for all of their students. And my school should be no different.
It amazes me how much suffering our youth experience at the hands of careless and ignorant adults. While it seems there may have been resolution in this incident, as described by the young ‘victim’ (for want of a better term) himself, one wonder what the lessons are in terms of education and sensitivity training to adults in charge?
Update: Issak informed today that the Prom was a lot of fun and that he is still waiting to hear back from the School Board after the meeting which went well.
Gender Specialist, Dr. Michele Angello Set to Release: “On The Couch With Dr. Angello: A Guide to Raising & Supporting Transgender Youth” | Book offers practical advice to assist families navigating a path to understanding and acceptance
Posted by Melanie Nathan, May 17, 2013-
Clinical sexologist and gender specialist, Dr. Michele Angello will launch her first book, “On The Couch With Dr. Angello: A Guide to Raising & Supporting Transgender Youth,” on the third week of June, in conjunction with LGBT Pride Month. After 14 years of helping gender variant young people and their families, along with appearances on Dr. Phil, The Tyra Banks Show, Larry King Live, and more, Dr. Angello is thrilled to announce the release of a book that explains it all. Both entertaining and full of useful information, this book is warm, enlightening and educational. READ MORE