I Am Florida: Mathew Myers
The 'Back to School' Experience
Story by: Jennie Reiken
Back to school should be a fun and exciting time for students. Seeing old friends, making new ones, and getting to enjoy a new classroom and teacher. And while Mathew Myers does enjoy these aspects of going back to school, unfortunately there is an added weight that Matt has to deal with as a transgender young man.
In August of this year, Matt started his junior year of high school at Marion Technical Institute in Florida where he is a part of the culinary program. He loves to cook and is excited to graduate and one day open a bakery in Colorado. But for the next year of school and possibly until graduation, Matt can only use one restroom on the whole campus - because he is transgender. Unlike his peers who have multiple options for restroom locations, Matt is the only student who has to map out his day according to the location of the only restroom he is allowed to use.
Mathew came out as transgender to his incredibly supportive family his sophomore year after telling his previous school’s administration that he was a boy and wanted to wear the boys’ uniform. Now that is able to live every day as the person he has always known himself to be, Mathew has become more social, self-assured, and confident.
“Mom I told everyone at school to call me Matt, because I am a boy.”
Mathew is like many 18-year-old boys; he enjoys playing video games, hanging out with friends, eating sushi, going to church with his family, and working part-time at his parents’ local cabinetry business.
Mathew’s peers, teachers, and administrative staff at his new school fully support him and his gender identity. When Matt arrived at his school a couple days before the start of the school year, he introduced himself to his new principal as Mathew and explained that his records would show his name as Madison. Much to Matt’s surprise, his new principal, Mr. Fritch, did not bat an eye and welcomed Matt and his mother Beth with open arms! This hospitality continued on orientation day when Matt met with his teachers and they all addressed him as Mathew. Mr. Fitch had taken the time to have conversations with his peers and the other administrative staff by letting them know Mathew would be joining them this fall and to address him as they would any other male student. Matt and his mom were elated and relieved! This kind gesture meant that Matt’s identity would be acknowledged and respected by his teachers and new classmates from the very first day of the school year.
“Hi, I’m Matt. Your books show my name as Madison and female, but please call me Matt and use male pronouns.”
While Mathew’s peers and teachers are supportive of who he is, the Marion County School Board’s recently passed a policy that prohibits Matt from using the boys restroom with his other male classmates. This isolates Mathew and puts him in the unfair position of being forced to use only one bathroom on campus.
Equality Florida and our local partners are working hard to ensure all students, including those who are transgender and gender nonconforming, are protected in school and have the freedom to use the restroom that matches who they are. A student’s “Back to School” experience should not include the fear of being treated unfairly because of who they are. Matt and all other transgender youth deserve to feel comfortable, safe, and celebrated at school, where they spend so much of their time each day. Many transgender students have not experienced the kindness that Mathew’s school has shown him, and all schools and communities should embrace kids who are different and ensure that each and every one of them are able to be safe, be themselves, and succeed in school.
Photos are courtesy of Mathew Myers and Jacob Langston for the New York Times