Transgender Student Pushes for Equality Despite Pushback

Written by Annie Gilbert, David Hamady, and Carissa Vegeres

When transgender student Hannah Hurt spoke to the Loudoun County School Board urging protection against the discrimination of the LGBTQ community, she never imagined that she would later be featured in YouTube videos by the conservative action group known as The Public Advocate of the US.

In February, after hearing over 80 speakers on both sides of the issue, the school board voted to add sexual and gender identity to its list of a class of students and staff protected under its anti-discrimination policy.  The board stopped short of adding language that would explicitly address policies regarding the use of restrooms and locker rooms.

Soon after the February meeting, a video featuring Hurt surfaced on YouTube.  A second, similar video ran more prevalently during the recent election cycle this fall, gaining hundreds of thousand views.

Hurt’s comments to the school board in February encouraged the board to enact a system of protection for transgender children, saying, “This formalization of the language in Loudoun County’s policy is needed.”

Days later, Hurt was surprised to find the YouTube ad which included a segment of Hurt speaking at the meeting, cutting off after she says her name and that she is transgender.  The video goes on to refer to Hurt as a teenage boy, and then launches into its message against gender neutral bathrooms.

After Hurt’s image is featured, the text of the video states that girls now have to worry about “teenage boys such as the one in the video having complete access to girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.”

Although Hurt is dismayed by her unauthorized use in the video, it is apparently not illegal since she spoke in a public setting.   Hurt says, “It (the video) didn’t even have the courtesy to play what I had to say. It provided this very knee-jerk reaction of hateful, hard-lined stuff about trans people using this bill to prey on small girls.”

Hurt believes that the school board’s anti-discrimination policy is a step in the right direction but feels that the daily issue of equality among transgenders in school still poses a significant challenge.

One prevalent issue is the controversy over gender neutral bathrooms.  Hurt says that trans students already face many obstacles, including the lengthy process of taking legal action to officially change one’s gender. The process of updating a birth certificate can take months to a year to finalize, and until then, the individual is required by law to use the bathroom of the gender that is on the current, unchanged birth certificate.

“The process takes many months, it takes money, it takes dealing with courts and attorneys.  It’s so complicated, said Hurt.  “If you have to go through a legal process when you’re a minor, you have to have the most supportive parents in the world, and I’m happy to have that.

Moving forward, Hurt hopes more policy changes are passed, stepping into the direction of more transgender rights, including gender neutral bathrooms.

There are many who do not share the same sentiment. Of the 80 people who spoke at the February School Board meeting, about half were advocating for LGBTQ protections, but about half were against any changes to the discrimination policy, especially gender-neutral bathrooms.

School Board Chair Jeff Morse said, “Anyway that this comes out could mean that someone’s rights could be violated…And that’s important, because we could be in a no-win situation.”