Lila Perry is a senior at Hillsboro High School in St. Louis, MO. Lila was assigned a male gender at birth, but has identified as female since she was 13 year old. In the middle of the last school year Lila, who had presented as a gay male throughout her high school career, began to publicly identify as female. As such, Lila wanted to be able to use the girls’ locker room when she changes for gym class. The school has offered Lila the option of changing in a private, gender-neutral restroom, but Lila refused this offer.
“I wasn’t hurting anyone and I didn’t want to feel segregated out. I didn’t want to be in the gender neutral bathroom. I am girl, I shouldn’t be pushed off to another bathroom,” Lila explained to KMOV4.
Now, her simple request has become an issue that’s sparked a student walkout both in her defense, and in opposition to her request.
Yesterday, over a period of two hours, about 30 to 40 students left their classes and gathered outside the school in solidarity with Lila.
“She is a human and she has human rights as everyone else.” one classmate told Fox2News.
Close by, another protest—this one represented by a reported 150 students and community members—was being held by those who did not believe that Lila, as a trans girl, should be permitted to use the girls’ locker room.
“The girls have rights, and they shouldn’t have to share a bathroom with a boy,” a student’s parent told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Another protester who drove from a community an hour’s distance from Hillsboro, told KMOV4, “Boys needs to have their own locker room. Girls need to have their own locker room and if somebody has mixed feelings where they are, they need to have their own also.”
It is heartbreaking to hear these adults misgender Lila and try to keep her separated from the group in which she identifies. But we’re incredibly inspired to see Lila standing up for herself, even in the face of such opposition. In an on-camera interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lila aptly gave her situation powerful historical context.
“It wasn’t too long ago that white people were saying ‘I don’t feel comfortable sharing a bathroom with a black person,'” Lila pointed out. “And history repeats itself.”
We are sad to hear that Lila not only was sequestered in the principal’s office for her own safety during the protest, but that, as a result of the turmoil, she has dropped her P.E. class and rarely uses the restroom at school—all because she fears for her safety.
It’s upsetting that so many people don’t respect Lila’s gender identity, and that this pressure was a factor in Lila being forced to self-exclude to ensure her own safety, but we are heartened by the fact that so many of Lila’s classmates—many from the school’s gay-straight alliance—supported her in such a big and public way.
“I love that I had so many people out there to counteract the [other] people who walked out,” Perry told KMOV.
Now, Perry is gathering even more supporters of all ages on the Internet.
Hundreds of people are taking to Twitter to voice their love and support for Perry and to call out transphobia in schools.
We hope that Lila and her supporters’ efforts set a precedent, and that student bodies around the country are inspired to stand up for those who are unfairly targeted and excluded.
Watch Lila’s interview with local news here.