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Central Indiana mom raising awareness about transgender rights in schools

Posted at 1:15 PM, Jul 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-02 23:24:18-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Central Indiana students are heading back to school and for some parents, it's a tense time knowing the challenges their child might face.

For Cressida Kahn, the challenges her children might face are unique.

"We're a queer family. I say that proudly," Kahn said. "My oldest's pronouns are they, them. My middle child is he. My youngest, Owyn, is she. It's always been accepted."

However, Kahn knows that acceptance and love doesn't always extend out into the world.

"It's hard because the outside world, they're not like that. It's really hard whenever you have kids and you have to introduce them to that," Kahn said.

Her youngest, six-year-old Owyn, is transgender. This will be her first year in school. To avoid any confusion between what's on the birth certificate and how Kahn registered her, she called the school to be sure her daughter could use the girl's restroom.

The school first suggested Owyn could use a couple of gender-neutral restrooms. One is in the nurse's office and another right off the hallway where she would be in class. This did not sit well with Kahn.

"You're segregating my child," Kahn said. "You're ostracizing my child and that's going to lead to her peers questioning that. You don't think about your kid going to a certain restroom. It's just going to a restroom. She's always gone to the girl's restroom."

After that initial conversation, the school got back to Kahn and confirmed Owyn will not have to use a separate restroom. Guidance that helped the school district make this decision comes from the Department of Education in accordance with Title IX.

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"It has been found to be roundly unconstitutional to violate Civil Rights Law, to discriminate against trans youth in this fashion," Kit Malone, advocacy strategist with the ACLU of Indiana, said. "This is settled law and you are exposing yourself to litigation, potentially, if you refuse to provide equal accommodations to trans people."

Malone said in this current climate, school districts need to be aware of this. States have introduced and passed several anti-trans bills this year. Most involve trans girls playing sports or trans youth seeking medical care.

"That's frightening to watch and unfortunately, it also emboldens people to violate the law like this, to believe what they're doing is right," Malone said. "Trans youth are just like other youth. Educators, as people who are charged with the care of youth, it's terribly important we care for all youth and make sure schools are places they can go and thrive, where they don't have to fear because of who they are, they're going to be ostracized or treated differently."

While Kahn was able to work with her daughter's school to figure out their situation, she's still concerned that awareness about transgender rights may be limited.

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"It's 2021. There should be no 'let me get in touch with someone.' It should be 'she can use the restroom, sure.' That's all I wanted to hear and I didn't hear that," Kahn said.