State Representatives Condemn “Parent” Designations on Birth Certificates


On Thursday, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-12) along with 26 other State Representatives sent a letter to Governor Wolf urging him to rescind the policy update that provides for Pennsylvania birth certificates to include gender neutral language for noted parents.

In 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Health updated the birth certificate forms to include spaces for one or two “Parents”, rather than the gendered language of “Mother” and “Father”.

This change is gender inclusive as it makes these forms accessible to couples of the same gender and those parents who do not identify along a gender binary. In the past, for example, a lesbian couple would have to put (as able) one parent name in the “Father” designation.

The letter is here below. News outlets have begun reporting on the letter, such as here by Fox 43.

Governor Wolf and Acting Secretary of Health + Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine are openly supportive of LGBTQ inclusion. We will continue to monitor this development and work to provide education to legislators on the importance of government forms being inclusive and accessible to all.


Four Pennsylvanians Named in the Out 100 for 2017

Out Magazine has released the ‘Out 100’ since 1994, featuring individuals who the publication considers having made compelling contributions to society as out LGBTQ people. 

Every year, we highlight the Pennsylvanians who were selected.

For 2017, four Pennsylvanians — though all who were born and raised in the commonwealth but now live in New York City — have been named to the Out 100 list for 2017:

Kyle Abraham, Dancer and Choreographer (From Pittsburgh)
Jonathan Groff, Entertainer of the Year (From Lancaster)
Chris McCarthy, President of MTV (From Levittown)
Benj Pasek, Songwriter (From Lower Merion)

Kyle Abraham returns home to Pittsburgh THIS Friday and Saturday, November 10-11, for a special performance. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published this feature on Abraham and the show here. Tickets are online here through Trust Arts.

Songwriter Max Vernon and actor Nathan Lee Graham are honored in this year’s Out 100, who both performed last year at our 2016 PYC event in New York City.

Additionally, two honorees this year attended schools in Pennsylvania. Playwright Paula Vogel attended Bryn Mawr College and actor Samira Wiley attended Temple University.

Past honorees from Pennsylvania in recent years include Alison Bechdel, Lee Daniels, Edie Windsor, and Evan Wolfson.

[Pictured: Benj Pasek // Out Magazine]

Historic Election of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians


The 2017 General Election brought historic wins for LGBTQ candidates across Pennsylvania. Over a dozen out candidates were successfully elected or re-elected for local office.

Tyler Titus won his election for Erie City School Board – making him the first out trans elected official in Pennsylvania history.

Luis Medina won his election for Lewisburg Borough Council – making him the first known out public official in Union County, and first known out Latinx public official in Pennsylvania. (Luis is a co-founder of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress.)

Mark Barbee won his election for Mayor of Bridgeport, in Montgomery County – as he continues his service in being the first known out Black public official in Pennsylvania. He just completed his first term on the Bridgeport Borough Council.

We are proud to share the news of out Pennsylvanians and several parents of LGBTQ young people who have won their elections.

These wins would not have been possible without the trailblazers who ran before them. Rep. Mike Fleck from Huntingdon County, our first openly gay state legislator, lost re-election in 2014 after he came out. Out lesbian Fern Kaufman from Chester County ran for a state representative seat in 2010. Out gay candidate Eric Gutshall for Dauphin County Controller in 2015.  There have been many candidates for township, borough, city, and county governments who tried but did not prevail throughout Pennsylvania. They paved the way for the general public to accept LGBTQ people as public servants, ultimately making wins like this possible.

With 2,562 municipalities across the commonwealth, it is practically impossible to monitor every elected official in Pennsylvania. It is also practically impossible to assess the ‘outness’ of many individuals, some of whom may share their identities with close community circles but not with local media. We have decided to only list here who is ‘out’ in terms of their identities being public and widely known. For this reason, we generally use the phrase “first known out” person in a given context unless there is certainty otherwise. You are welcome to email us information on a publicly out elected who was not widely known before – and we’ll update our records! Photos and information noted below are from the public websites or social media of the candidates.

This election was historic across the nation. In Virginia, Danica Roem has become the first out trans state legislator elected in the nation. Andrea Jenkins will be joining Minneapolis City Council and become the first out black trans person elected to public office in the United States. Seattle elected Jenny Durkan, an out lesbian, as its new mayor. Lisa Middleton will be joining Palm Springs City Council and become the first out trans person elected to a non-judicial office in California. These wins are possible because of leaders like Harvey Milk from San Francisco, Kim Coco Iwamoto from Hawaii, and Ed Flanagan from Vermont. 


Lori Schreiber
Abington Township Board of Commissioners

Commissioner Schreiber has been re-elected to a fourth term on the Abington Township Board of Commissioners. Abington is among the largest townships in Pennsylvania, located in eastern Montgomery County and bordering Philadelphia. Commissioner Schreiber’s leadership was instrumental in Abington’s adoption of a local non-discrimination ordinance in 2012. She lives in Roslyn with her partner, Linda.

Mark Barbee
Bridgeport Mayor

Mayor-elect Barbee will become the first known out Black Mayor in Pennsylvania history. Barbee, 28, has just completed his first term on Bridgeport Borough Council. Bridgeport is located in central Montgomery County, bordering Norristown and outside of Philadelphia. 

Ron Strouse
Doylestown Mayor

Mayor Strouse was re-elected and will now serve a second term. Doylestown is the County Seat of Bucks County.

Tyler Titus
Erie City School Board

School Board member-elect Titus has become the first out trans elected official in Pennsylvania history. Titus, 33, is a therapist in Erie and father of two young children. 

Glenn Paul Wascovich
Hallam Mayor

Mayor-elect Wascovich is among the first out elected officials in York County. Wascovich lives in Hallam with his husband, Michael – who currently serves on Hallam Borough Council. Hallam is located in a rural area near the Susquehanna River, between the cities of York and Lancaster.

Ben Allatt
Harrisburg City Council

City Councilmember Allatt was re-elected to a second term. Allat lives in Harrisburg with his husband, Stephen. Harrisburg is our state capital, located in south central Pennsylvania.

Dan Miller
Harrisburg City Treasurer

Treasurer Miller was elected to his first full term in the position. Miller was appointed Treasurer by Harrisburg City Council to fill a vacancy in June 2016. He is also a former Harrisburg City Controller. Miller lives in Harrisburg with his husband, Carl. Harrisburg is our state capital, located in south central Pennsylvania.

Amy Zanelli
Lehigh County Commission

Commissioner-elect Zanelli will become the first known out County Commissioner in Pennsylvania history. Zanelli lives in central Lehigh County with her wife and three daughters. She will be the first out member of the Lehigh County Commission. Lehigh County is located in eastern Pennsylvania between Scranton and Philadelphia.

Matthew Fetick
Kennett Square Mayor

Mayor Fetick was re-elected to a third term. He is an out gay man and supported the local non-discrimination ordinance that was adopted by Borough Council earlier this year. Kennett Square is located in southern Chester County, about an hour drive west of Philadelphia.

Luis Medina
Lewisburg Borough Council

Councilmember-elect Luis Medina will become the first out local government official in Lewisburg – and the first known out Latinx public official in Pennsylvania. Medina, 29, is a counselor who received his undergraduate and masters degrees from the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. While a student leader at Bloom, he became a co-founder of the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. Lewisburg is the county seat of Union County, located along the Susquehanna River.

LeRoy Stearns
Meadville Mayor

Mayor Stearns was elected for his first full term as Meadville Mayor. He was appointed as Mayor by Meadville City Council to complete the term of Christopher Soff in January 2015. Mayor Stearns had served on Meadville City Council from 1998 to 2015. Meadville is the county seat of Crawford County, located in rural northwestern Pennsylvania.

Sean Strub
Milford Mayor

Mayor Strub was elected for his first full term as Milford Mayor. He was appointed as Mayor by Milford Borough Council to complete the term of Bo Fean in May 2016. Mayor Strub is the Director of The Sero Project, a national organization comprised of individuals living with HIV who combat stigma and injustice, and is the founder of POZ Magazine. Before moving to Pike County in 1997, he ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in New York, becoming the first person to run for federal office who was openly HIV+. Mayor Strub lives in the borough with his partner, Xavier. Milford is the county seat of Pike County, located in northeastern Pennsylvania near the borders of New Jersey and New York.

Chris Dietz
Millersburg Borough Council

Millersburg Borough Council President Dietz was re-elected to a third full term. Dietz lives in Millersburg with his husband, Alex. Millersburg Borough is located in a rural region of northern Dauphin County along the Susquehanna River.

Dan Murphy
State College Borough Council

Murphy won his election for a seat on the State College Borough Council, becoming the first out member of the council. State College Borough is located in direct center of Pennsylvania, in the heart  of Centre County.

Josie Byzek and Jesse Gantt
Susquehanna Township School Board

School board members-elect Byzek and Gantt won their seats on the Susquehanna Township School Board. Byzek is a mother who lives in the township with her wife. Gantt lives in the township with his husband, Kevin, and son. This is the first known time that two out elected officials will serve on the same local legislative body at the same time.

Eric Elvanian
Upper Merion School Board

School Board member Elvanian won re-election to a second term to the Upper Merion School Board. Elvanian lives in King of Prussia with his husband.

Gregory Lynch
West Conshohocken Mayor

Mayor-elect Lynch will become the first out mayor of West Conshohocken. Lynch is a husband and father who has lived in the borough for over 13 years. For the past six years he has been a member of the West Conshohocken Borough Council, winning a special election in 2012. He has been Vice-President of Borough Council for the past four years. West Conshohocken is a small community located along the Schuylkill River in central Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia.

Several parents of young LGBTQ people also won their elections!

Alisa Bowman
East Penn School Board

School board member-elect Bowman won her election to become an East Penn School Board member. She lives with her family in Emmaus, outside of Allentown in Lehigh County. Her son is Ari Bowman, who is a 13 year-old trans boy who rose to international fame when he spoke out for trans inclusion before his school board in 2016. His mother will now sit on that very school board. (Alisa and Ari have both spoken with PYC in the State Capitol for our annual Pennsylvania Comes Out for Freedom event in 2016.)

Kathy Dahlkemper
Erie County Executiv

County Executive Dahlkemper won re-election to a second term. As the mother of an openly gay son, Dahlkemper has used her civic platforms, previously as a US Representative and currently as County Executive, to take action supporting LGBTQ equality.


This is a live post and will be updated as new information comes in about the 2017 General Election

Pennsylvanians Remember and Celebrate Trans Lives

The International Transgender Day of Remembrance
(TDOR) is held in local communities and campuses across the nation to memorialize those who have been killed due to anti-transgender bigotry. Many victims of anti-transgender violence have been invisible in their communities and attackers not often brought to justice.
The 19th Annual TDOR brings together communities to mourn and honor victims of anti-transgender hate crimes and as a call to action towards the respect of all people regardless of gender identity or expression.

There have been at least 25 murders of trans people in the United States this year. On Tuesday, October 31st, Candace Towns was killed in Macon, GA. She was 30 years-old. 

In Pennsylvania, we mourn and remember Maya Young, 25. She was recently stabbed to death in Philadelphia on February 20, 2016. In 2015, Pennsylvania mourned London Chanel, 21, and Kiesha Jenkins, 22, both black trans women who were killed in Philadelphia. In July 2013, another young trans woman, Diamond Williams, was brutally murdered in Philadelphia. The court case is ongoing in her murder. There have been countless known slayings of transgender people because of their identity around the world since last year. The TDOR website memorializes the murders of over 75 transgender individuals we are aware of in this past year.

Over 25 organized vigils have been held in communities throughout the commonwealth for TDOR in recent years. This was a large increase from just a few events held in Pittsburgh and Southeastern Pennsylvania before 2013.

November is also Transgender Awareness Month. Many communities are not just mourning those lost to violence, but celebrating and lifting up the lives of transgender people. There are wonderful educational and community events set to take place throughout Pennsylvania. Several student organizations are holding Transgender Awareness Weeks. Trans Day of Visibility is annually on March 31st.

Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigils in Pennsylvania

November 20th, 2017


Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center (522 West Maple Street), November 20th, 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Host: Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center
More Information

Lebanon Valley College (Miller Chapel Lobby), November 20th, 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Host: LVC Freedom Rings
More Information

Lehigh University (Williams Global Commons), November 20th, 6:00pm – 7:00pm
Host: Spectrum at Lehigh University
More Information

Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley (1401 Greenview Drive), November 21st, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Hosts: Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley, Lehigh Valley Renaissance
More Information

Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (KUB Fireside Lounge), November 15th, 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Host: Bloomsburg University of PA LGBTQA Resource Center

University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (Wick Chapel), November 14th, 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Host: Pitt-Bradford Pride Alliance
More Information

Dickinson College (Social Hall West), November 20th, 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Host: Dickinson College LGBTQ Services
More Information

Thomas Paine Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (3424 Ridge Pike), November 20th, 7:00pm – 8:30pm
Host: Thomas Paine Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
More Information

Erie County Courthouse (140 West 6th Street), November 19th, 1:00pm – 2:00pm

Host: TransFamily of NWPA
More Information

Glen Mills
The Green Church (1501 Middletown Road), November 20th, 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Host: PRYSM Youth Center of Delaware County, Imago Dei, The Green Church

University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg (Campana Chapel), November 15th, 8:00pm – 9:00pm
Host: Pitt Greensburg GSA
More Information

Pennsylvania State Capitol – Main Steps (3rd and State Streets), November 20th, 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Host: TransCentral PA
More Information

Penn Highlands Community College (101 Community College Way), November 20th, 6:00pm – 7:00pm
Host: Penn Highlands Community College GSA
More Information

Franklin & Marshall College (College Center – Atrium), November 20th, 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Host: SAGA and the ADWC

Grace Unitarian Universalist Church (1947 New Holland Pike), November 20th, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Host: Grace Unitarian Universalist Church

More Information

Bucknell University (Science Quad), November 14th, 8:00pm – 9:00pm
Host: Bucknell GSA

More Information

Diamond Park, November 20th, 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Host: Pennsylvania Equality Project

More Information

TriVersity Center (201 West Harford Street), November 20th, 6:00pm – 7:00pm
Host: TriVersity

More Information

Penn LGBT Center (3907 Spruce Street), November 15th, 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Host: Penn LGBT Center, Penn CAPS

More Information

Not One More: Rally and Silent March: Starts at Philadelphia City Hall (3 South Penn Square) and ends at the William Way Community Center, November 20th, 4:30pm – 6:00pm
Host: The Trans Equity Project – a program of GALAEI
More Information

TDoR Vigil: William Way Community Center (1315 Spruce Street), November 20th, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Host: William Way Community Center
More Information

Persad Center (5301 Butler Street), November 20th, 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Hosts: TransPride Pittsburgh, Judah Fellowship, Persad Center, Trans YOUniting, and SisTers PGH
More Information

University of Pittsburgh (William Pitt Union Patio + Lawn), November 16th, 9:00pm
Host: Pitt Rainbow Alliance

State College
Penn State University (Old Main Lawn), November 16th, 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Host: Commission on LGBTQ Equity

More Information

State College
Allen Street Gates (Allen Street and College Street), November 19th, 1:00pm – 2:00pm

Host: Centre LGBTQA Support Network

First Presbyterian Church (100 East Wheeling Street), November 20th, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Host: Washington County GSA, Inc.
More Information

Lycoming College (The Quad), November 20th, 9:15pm – 10:15pm
Host: Lycoming College GSA
More Information

West Chester
Unitarian Congregation of West Chester (501 South High Street), November 20th, 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Host: Unitarian Congregation of West Chester
More Information

Union Lutheran Church of York (501 South High Street), November 20th, 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Host: Union Lutheran Church of York
More Information



November 2017 Transgender Awareness Events


Lewisburg: Lexi Adsit
Bucknell Unviersity (Commons), November 16th, 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Host: Bucknell GSA, LACOS, and Unite & Inspire

More Information

Philadelphia: GenderTalk
Claudia Cohen Hall (249 South 36th Street), November 15th, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Host: Penn Non-Cis

More Information

Pittsburgh: The “THIC Event” (Trans History in Color)
Sanctuary Pittsburgh (5015 Penn Avenue), November 20th, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Host: Garden of Peace Project

More Information

Titusville: Tyler Titus
University of Pittsburgh at Titusville (McKinney Commons), November 20th, 12:00pm – 1:00pm
More Information

State College: Penn State Trans Visibility Month
Wednesday, November 1st — Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, reception at 4:30 p.m., keynote speech at 5 p.m., 233B HUB-Robeson Center

Monday, November 13th — Transgender Information Exchange/HUB Takeover, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Ground Floor Stage, HUB-Robeson Center
Tuesday, November 14th — Pennsylvania Youth Congress (PYC) Panel Discussion, 7 p.m., 104 Rackley Building. PYC is an advocacy organization dedicated to eliminating discrimination against LGBTQ youth through public policy initiatives.
Tuesday, November 14th — Third Way Collective Transgender Clothing Exchange, 1-4 p.m., location TBA
Wednesday, November 15th — “Discovering Crystal,” movie and panel discussion, 6 p.m., 102 Paterno Library (Foster Auditorium). The film chronicles the beginning of one teen’s transition process. A discussion with the director and Crystal’s family will follow the viewing.
Thursday, November 16th — “How to Support Your Transgender Employees — an Update from Intel Corporation,” 8-9:30 p.m. Join us online at
Sunday, November 19th — Community Transgender Day of Remembrance, 1 p.m. at the Allen Street gates
More Information

If you would like to add your event to this page, please email us at



State Senate Committee Set to Vote on Ban for Trans Healthcare in CHIP

We have just learned that tomorrow morning in the State Senate, Sen. Donald White (R-41) will be introducing an amendment to ban trans healthcare coverage in the CHIP re-authorization bill in committee.

The Pennsylvania Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides free or low-cost healthcare insurance coverage for youth and families who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid. Since 2016, CHIP has included gender confirmation healthcare coverage.

Sen. White is the Chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The votes are not looking good for us to stop the amendment in committee. Instead of listening to medical professionals about the harm this proposal would cause, this State Senate committee is set to rapidly report out this bill.

The CHIP re-authorization bill is HB 1388. Below is the proposed amendment. We do not know how many trans youth receive gender healthcare under CHIP, but it could be in the hundreds. We know that cutting off hormones, therapy, and other gender healthcare access would be devastating.

This ban on trans healthcare under CHIP would begin on January 1, 2018.

We believe it will be most helpful for our networks to contact Sen. Jake Corman (R-34), the Senate Majority Leader, to express your support that trans healthcare for youth is critical to preserve. You can contact Sen. Corman at or phone his office at 717-787-1377. This bill would also need to go through the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Pat Browne (R-16) and can be reached at or 717-787-1349. You can look up your own Senator here and call or email them to share your support for trans inclusion in CHIP.

We want to fill the meeting room tomorrow with supporters. Our Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine will be there.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meeting will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, October 18th, at 9:30am in Room 461 of the Main Capitol. If you are planning to attend, please wear PURPLE to show your support.

Our Facebook event for the committee meeting is here.

From PYC, working directly with and representing trans youth throughout the commonwealth, we will be organizing visibility and action around this development as quickly as we can.

We will share more information as becomes available.

Non-discrimination Bill Reintroduced in the State Senate

For the sixth legislative session, an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination bill covering employment, housing, and public accommodations was introduced in the State Senate. Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) are again prime sponsors of the bill, now SB 613. Upon reintroduction, the bill has 16 co-sponsors, which includes three Republicans and 13 Democrats. The bill was referred to the State Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon).

Anti-Trans Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Boyertown Area School District

A federal lawsuit was filed today to block trans-inclusive practices at the Boyertown Area School District in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Two faith-based organizations, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Independence Law Center, have sued the school district on behalf of Joel Doe, an unnamed junior at Boyertown Area High School. The organizations are suing Dr. Richard Faidley, the Superintendent of the district, Dr. Brett Cooper, the Principal of the high school, and Dr. E. Wayne Foley, the Assistant Principal of the high school in their official capacities. The complaint states that the plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial to consider requests including compensatory damages and a permanent injunction on trans-inclusive practices in sex-segregated facilities.

The complaint alleges that Doe was in the process of changing his clothes for P.E. class when he realized that a transgender student was changing nearby and experienced “immediate confusion, embarrassment, humiliation, and loss of dignity upon finding himself in this circumstance,” as the complaint alleges.

The other student, identified as ‘female’ in the complaint, was given permission by the school district to use the locker room that they felt best correlated with their gender identity. Doe allegedly went to Dr. Foley, and relayed to him what had happened, at which time he was told to view the events as normal proceedings, a response that the complaint describes as, “marginaliz[ing] and sham[ing]” Doe.

According to the complaint, sex is described as being “fixed at conception, binary, objectively verifiable, and rooted in our human reproductive nature,” despite considerable scientific evidence pointing to the contrary.

The organizations are claiming alleged sexual harassment under Title IX, violation of the right to bodily privacy under the U.S. Constitution, and violation of Pennsylvania’s Public School Code of 1949, which requires separate facilities based on sex. The arguments made to advance these alleged violations are essentially the reverse of the arguments that have been successful in federal courts in support of trans inclusion, such as the Gavin Grimm case from Virginia, which is continuing to work its way through the federal circuit court.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit, is listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups for having “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” The other group, the Independence Law Center, claims that it “defends human life at all stages and the right to freely exercise religion.”

As a result of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the “Dear Colleague” letter that provided guidance for schools to protect transgender students, there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding precedents for recently filed Title IX lawsuits. In February, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to three transgender students from the Pine-Richland School District, which will allow them to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity as their case progresses through the court system. The nature of this case in Boyertown, however, could jeopardize future victories if the ruling goes in favor of Doe, potentially creating a battleground in the courtroom.

Late Tuesday, the Boyertown Area School District released the following statement to WFMZ 69:

“On Tuesday, March 21, 2017 the Boyertown Area School District received a demand letter from multiple attorneys related to student bathroom use.

A complaint has not been officially served to the Boyertown Area School District. The attorneys have given the district until April 4, 2017 to formulate a response.

Boyertown Area School District is reviewing this matter with our legal counsel and has no further comment at this time.”

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28th at 6:30pm.

Pennsylvania Youth Congress Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman said “The school has made reasonable accommodations for anyone who wants more privacy. Yet, this is not really about locker rooms. This is really about how inclusion is realized throughout society and in our schools: are trans people welcome to exist in our communities? Are trans students provided the opportunity to learn, and thrive, in our public schools? The answer must be yes – both under the US Constitution and for people of conscience.”

The Pennsylvania Youth Congress is working directly with students in the district as well as legal agencies at the state and national levels to support the continued inclusion of transgender students in the Boyertown Area School District. The Keystone Student Voice will share more information as it becomes available.

Initial Reports on Boyertown Lawsuit

Boyertown student sues school district over transgender policy (WFMZ 69)

Conservative groups sue school district over transgender student (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Pa. school district sued for allowing transgender student to use locker room (Newsworks)

A High School Boy Just Sued Because He Has To Share Bathrooms With A Transgender Student (Buzzfeed)

Student Sues School District After Claiming He Had To Change In Front Of Transgender Student In Locker Room (CBS Philly)

Boyertown HS student, parents sue school district over locker room privacy (Fox 43)

Rural PA Transgender Second Grader Files Federal Lawsuit

A second grader in Schuylkill County has filed a federal lawsuit in response to discrimination based on her gender identity. The complaint in A.H. v. Minersville School District et al, which was filed on Thursday, alleges longtime anti-trans discrimination by the principal and district administration. Minersville School District is located in rural Schuylkill County, approximately 50 miles northeast of Harrisburg.

In May of 2016, A.H., a transgender student at Minersville Elementary School, filed a complaint of discrimination against her school district through her parents with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC).  The complaint alleges that A.H. has been “subjected to numerous instances of discrimination and retaliation at the hands of Defendants, [Minersville School District], [Superintendent] McBreen, and [Principal] Yacobacci.”

Despite the school district’s resulting confirmation that A.H. would be able to use the restroom that corresponded with her gender identity, Superintendent McBreen informed A.H.’s mother Tracey Handling that they would not issue any formal policy on trans student access to bathrooms and that it would be handled on a case-by-case basis. As a result there is no official procedure or precedent to protect A.H. or other trans students from any harassment or from the district reverting back to their old practice of forcing students to use a restroom that does not correlate to their gender identity.

According to the complaint, in September 2016 A.H. suffered an injury to her toe by one of her older siblings. Handling wrote to the district to request that A.H. be allowed to wear flip-flops, as the injury prevented her from being able to wear closed toe shoes. Principal Yacobacci allegedly responded by reporting the family to Children and Youth Services because of the injury and when Handling asked for reasoning behind the decision, Yacobacci began screaming at her in front of A.H. and other district employees.

Allegedly, Yacobacci had previously forced A.H. to use the men’s restroom on a class field trip and made her wait until all the other students had used the facilities and until the facilities had been searched and cleared prior to A.H. being allowed to use them. As the complaint states, “this action singled out Plaintiff A.H., and made her classmates ask why she was using the boy’s restroom, since she was a girl. A.H. went home upset and was asking her mother why she was singled out and forced to use the men’s bathroom on the field trip.”

Additionally, the complaint alleges that McBreen said that in order to consider allowing A.H. to use the women’s restroom he would be required to write a letter to all other parents in the district to gauge their response, before saying to Handling, “are you ready for all the backlash of this?”

The harm that this discrimination and isolation may be doing to A.H. is unimaginable. In the complaint it is stated that, “defendants have marginalized and stigmatized A.H., based on her sex, gender identity, and transgender status… As a result, Plaintiff A.H. has experienced and continues to experience the harmful effects of being segregated from, and treated differently than, her classmates of the same gender identity, including lower self-esteem, embarrassment, humiliation, social isolation, and stigma.” The complaint goes on to describe gender identity as “a core, defining trait and is so fundamental to one’s identity and conscience that a person cannot be required to abandon it as a condition of equal treatment. Gender identity generally is fixed at an early age and is highly resistant to change through intervention.”

The complaint does not provide an update on the status of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission claim.

On Friday afternoon, the federal case was assigned to Senior Judge James M. Munley of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Judge Munley was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998. He is known for famously striking down a local anti-immigration ordinance in Hazleton that would have penalized business owners if they attempted to hire illegal immigrants and punished landlords for attempting to provide them housing.

A.H. v. Minersville is among the first known federal lawsuits in Pennsylvania that seeks to advance the civil rights of transgender students through the judiciary. This case has been filed just a few days after the victory of a preliminary injunction being granted in Evancho v. Pine-Richland School District (in Western Pennsylvania), which blocks enforcement of an anti-trans directive.

We will continue to monitor this case and provide updates on any new information as it becomes available.

UPDATE 3/7/2017: The case is going to be heard by Judge Robert D. Mariani, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2011 as a US District Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

PA Trans Youth Roundtable Forms

In the immediate aftermath of the US Departments of Justice and Education withdrawing their Title IX guidance supporting transgender student inclusion, the Pennsylvania Youth Congress convened an emergency state meeting of young trans Pennsylvanians in Harrisburg. This meeting welcomed over 20 trans youth from all across the state to meet with Physican General Dr. Rachel Levine to discuss the issues occurring in our state’s schools. The afternoon meeting also included a press conference, featuring remarks from students in Pittsburgh and and the Pine-Richland School Districts.

The PA Trans Youth Roundtable plans to meet again to grow into an corps of young trans leaders in Pennsylvania.

67 Racist High School Mascots in Pennsylvania

At least 12% of Pennsylvania (brick-and-mortar) public high school graduates come from a school with a racist mascot.

For over five years, the Pennsylvania Youth Congress has been keeping meticulous records of school board policies as they relate to LGBTQ inclusion throughout the commonwealth. This is a very intense process, which involves the tracking  of numerous policies across 500 districts. Many districts do not share their policies online, so this research has us sending regular Right to Know requests, which requires financial resources and can take months to resolve. We are proud to have collected this information and finally have the ability to collate our findings in producing a landmark report on the status of LGBTQ-inclusion in Pennsylvania school district-level policy this winter.

As an intersectional social justice organization, we would be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to identify other ways through policy that Pennsylvania public schools make education systems unsafe for students. After seeing dozens of outright racists mascots in our policy research, we knew this epidemic should be clearly brought to light on a statewide level.

Racist mascots create a hostile school environment for both Native students and students of conscience by promoting wholly offensive imagery as a core community value.

For further reading  on this issue, please go to Native writers and perspectives. A national, Native-led organization was formed in 2014 to challenge the use of racist mascots in the United States in Not Your Mascots. Their website had a ton of information and shares ways to get involved. The National Congress of American Indians has a useful website summarizing this history as well, and is a partner of the Not Your Mascots organization.

In Pennsylvania, there have been campaigns mounted by students at some of these schools to change their mascots.

Recently, the student newspaper at Neshaminy High School in Montgomery County took a bold stand against their mascot being the “R*dskins.” A major battle erupted in 2013 when The Playwickian was refusing to print “R*dskin” in their paper. A complaint was filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which in 2015, ruled the school had 90 day to change their mascot. The legal and community process is ongoing surrounding alleged violations of First Amendment.

Our research is based on the 584 brick-and-mortar public high schools who graduated students in 2016. We identified 67 schools as having racist mascots. Using the most recent enrollment statistics available from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), 59,251 students are enrolled at these schools identified with racist mascots schools. That is about the population of the Lancaster, our commonwealth’s 10th largest municipality. These schools are located all throughout the state. In context with all PDE-designated public school district entities that graduated students in 2016, this means that at least 12% of Pennsylvania (brick-and-mortar) public high school graduates come from an institution with a racist mascot.

Racist Public School Mascot Map

[As of December 2016]

We did not count ethnic-inspired mascots such as the Vikings, Trojans, Scotties, or Dutchmen as racist. While they may present ethnic stereotypes, they do not promote and are not rooted in white supremacy. We also found two schools with Quakers for a mascot. This is felt as inappropriate by many Quakers, but again, not based in white supremacy. 

Several district names are inspired by Native tribal nations located in their regions: The Mohawk School District, in Lawrence County (about halfway between Erie and Pittsburgh). Their mascot is the Raiders.  The Iroquois School District in Erie County has Braves as their mascot.

Of all 584 high school mascots identified, Indians was only second in popularity to Panthers, which were in 26 schools.

Here is a breakdown of the offensive names and their usage:

Mascot NameNumber of High SchoolsStudent Population
Big Red 1494
Chiefs 1713
R*dskins 22,973
Red Raiders 53,887
Warriors 2015,744

We can all learn from the strength and commitment of the students at Neshaminy, and others who are actively resisting racist mascot names. These changes will not happen just by identifying mascots as racist. There are many personal conversations ahead in these communities about how much harm they cause people – with students, civic leaders, and ultimately, school board members. 

The time to take action is always now.