#VoicesOfMarion: Melody Lewis
Melody Lewis is a parent, an activist with Trans Ocala, and a resident of Marion County. She worries about the safety and privacy of both her own children and the students in the transgender youth group she mentors, and considers the consequences of further ostracizing transgender youth on school campuses. Read as she reflects on her own identity, the School Board’s decision, and the future of schools both in Marion County and across the country.
While broader strides are being made toward protecting the rights of transgender students, counties across Florida continue to move backwards. The Marion County School Board recently passed a policy that prevents transgender students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. In response, over 80 people from throughout Marion County gathered at a town hall to support each other, brainstorm next steps, and share their stories. We’ll continue to share some of their letters to the School Board to help you get to know the #VoicesofMarion, the people whose lives and loved ones have been intimately affected by this damaging and discriminatory policy. Even in the face of adversity and oppression, the strength of the LGBTQ and ally community is audible through their words. The #VoicesofMarion refuse to be silenced.
Dear Marion County School Board,
I am a parent. Many see me as a mom, but to my kids I am still Daddy . If this is confusing, it is because as a woman, most associate my being a parent with my being a mom, a title I am quick to embrace. However, as a trans woman, my kids have known me as Daddy since the day they were born. In truth, my identity and whatever my kids call me is irrelevant to the fact that I am a parent of five wonderful little kids.
As a parent, I worry about the choice that the School Board here in Marion County made to ignore the recommendations of the Obama administration and pass a gender inspection policy. I worry that our students’ privacy will be invaded by the school in regards to where they choose to go to the bathroom . I worry about the fact that our schools are already underfunded and stand to lose millions of federal dollars because of their blatant disregard of Title IX. I worry about how this will affect their futures. Will their school have enough money to keep the power on during the winter? Will they be able to afford new books or to pay teachers enough? I could honestly go on and on about the many worries I have for my own kids and how they will be affected going into school in the coming years.
Beyond how it affects my own children, I also worry about the transgender youth that belong to the support group I run. These kids face adversity from their peers on a day to day basis simply for being themselves, and now have the added stress of the administration telling them that their identity is not valid. They have to worry about bullying because of a policy that states that a comparable accommodation for bathroom use means walking across campus to one gender neutral bathroom on the opposite side of their campus: a walk that puts them at risk of being late for class, causes them to be ostracized from their peers, and potentially puts them at risk of both physical harm like UTI’s and disciplinary consequences for constant tardiness.
The School Board needs to reverse their policy and begin looking into an inclusive policy that protects all students and fosters an inclusive and safe environment for all students. They need to do it for my kids and for the kids I mentor. They need to examine the negative impact of their actions, and learn from the mistake they made before it is too late.