September 9, 2013, Richland High School Board Meeting Complainant: Kasey Caron, Kathy Caron, Cindy Theys, Richard Caron, John DeBartola
Remarks Provided by Keystone Alliance/GayLife Newsletter
Remarks from Kasey Caron
As many of you already know, my name is Kasey Caron and I’m a senior here at Richland High School. I have attended Richland for the full extent of my school career, and all of my love, pride, and devotion goes into these very halls that have housed my body and mind for the last thirteen years.
I am an active participant in this school as an honor student as well as through various clubs and activities such as the Forensics Team, Concert Band, and previously Art Club, Anime Club, and Theater Tech. I have also organized the Day of Silence, a national youth-run effort using silence to protest the actual silencing of LGBT people due to harassment, bias and abuse in schools, at Richland for the past four years. I was inducted into the National Honor Society in the spring of this year, and I am in my second year as Assistant Drum Major of the Richland Marching Band, both of which are esteemed credits. Imagine this. You wake up one day in the body of the opposite sex. Sure, at first it might be exciting, different, interesting to say the least. But eventually it would become uncomfortable, scary, unsettling. You might even feel trapped in a way, wondering if you’ll ever return to your own body where you belong. Now, imagine feeling like this for 17 years, your own skin is your prison, you’re unable to escape, and you’ve just taken a glimpse at what it’s like to walk in my shoes.
Ever since I was a kid, I have always fit into a more masculine role. Even before I truly understood the difference between girls and boys, I knew something just wasn’t right. I tried having a boyfriend, wearing dresses, and playing with dolls, but it never felt right. I was happiest playing Nintendo, wearing baggy clothes, and keeping my hair short. Today, I identify as a FTM (female to male) transgender. This means that I have been in gender confirmation counseling and plan on taking testosterone and eventually having gender reassignment surgery, ultimately becoming a male. I’ve never been happy in this body, and having this done will be my chance to finally be comfortable in my own skin. Most of my close friends already knew this, and I’ve been listed as male on Facebook for a few years, but I haven’t really come out and said this publicly until recently. I have always dressed as a male, I identify as male, and have asked to be referred to with the masculine pronouns he and him.
The school has always been rather accepting of my status as a transgendered youth and has made some concessions to accommodate my unique individuality such as a separate changing room for gym and a separate rest room facility. The school has approved of me wearing a tuxedo in lieu of the traditional female attire for the concert band performances. The guidance counselor held a meeting with all of my teachers last year regarding my preference for pronouns and my transgender status.
The reason I came out about this is because when the school was about to vote for the members of this year’s homecoming court, I was asked by the school guidance counselor, Mrs. Stringent and the staff organizing homecoming whether I preferred to be placed on the male or female ballot. Obviously, since I was given the choice, I wanted to be on the male ballot. I quickly posted a Facebook status the night before the voting to make the seniors of my school aware of this. This status received 109 likes, 51 comments, and several shares overnight. The support I had coming from Richland’s senior class alone was phenomenal. Walking into school the next day, it was hard to turn the corner without someone congratulating me, hugging me, and promising me their vote. I had never felt so accepted, so supported, and so respected in my life. I was sure I was going to make it onto court, and this would be a major step forward for me, my school, and the young LGBTQ community. I was so excited that not only was I going to be on homecoming court, but I also had a real shot at being crowned homecoming king. Everything was falling perfectly into place, I finally felt like a normal, biological boy, and it seemed like nothing could possibly go wrong.
Something did go wrong, however. In fact, everything fell apart in one single moment. Friday the 30th, the day of voting, shortly before the vote was to occur, I was called into the principal’s office. I walked in to find the principal, Mr. Bailey, and vice principal, Mr. Wilson, sitting in the office with serious, and yet vaguely unfazed expressions. They asked me to have a seat, and I set my bag down and sat down in front of the desk. They told me that it had come to their attention that I was running for homecoming court as a male, and informed me that they had been contacted by some lawyers who had told them that it was illegal for me to be on the male ballot as my driver’s license states that I am female. They also, without previously informing me, had removed my name from the male ballot and replaced it onto the female ballot. I was in shock, enraged, and disappointed. It felt like everything I had worked for had been destroyed. A new and important door had been opened for me, and then slammed right in my face. I was heartbroken and on the verge of tears as I stormed out of their office and directly into the guidance counselor’s office across the hall. It hit me. I couldn’t’ hold it in any longer. I was crying so hard I almost couldn’t explain to Mrs. Stringent what had happened. I could barely breathe.
When I could finally get something understandable to come out of my mouth, she immediately apologized. She didn’t know what to say, and neither did I. I wasn’t sure whether I was more angry, or disappointed. Something needed to be done. I told her this wasn’t going to be let go, that people were going to hear about this, and I wouldn’t be the only one who was angry. This wasn’t the end, it was only the beginning. After spending a few periods in her office discussing my plans on dealing with this, I left to continue my school day. Some people had asked me why I was on the wrong ballot, and I didn’t hesitate to tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, at least as I understood it.
At the end of the day, I was about to get on the bus to go home when the principal and vice principal pulled me aside. I wondered what they could possibly have to say to me after everything that had happened that day. They told me that it looked like I had gotten enough votes to have made it on court; however they weren’t going to send me with a male escort due to my “unique situation.” They had proposed to me that they were going to add another girl onto court and send her with my original escort, and that I could bring “whoever I want.” I couldn’t understand how I wasn’t allowed to be on court as a guy and escort a girl, but I apparently couldn’t be on court as a girl and be escorted by a guy either. It didn’t make any sense. They told me I could give them a decision by calling later that day, or informing them on Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend. So essentially I was being treated as a special case, and I didn’t know how to react. I just wanted to be treated the way I felt, as a male. Even though I could go to homecoming and wear a suit and escort a girl of my choice, I was still going to be in the running for homecoming queen, and that’s not right.
I had posted about how proud I was of RHS for initially placing me on the male ballot. There were many comments praising them for that decision, and those wearing blue tonight are here in support of me and my cause, because blue is the color of the cap and gown I am requesting to wear for my graduation in recognition of my preferred and expressed gender, male. This is in accordance with the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act which prohibits gender stereotyping within a public institution. As for the issue of the homecoming court and my situation of being listed on the court as a female, the only reason I was given that I could not be listed as a male member of the court is that my driver’s license states that I am a female. For your review, I present to you; the members of the school board and Mr. Bailey, a copy of my driver’s license showing that I am legally a male. Thank you for your consideration of these matters.
Remarks from John DeBartola: President, Keystone Alliance/Gaylife Newsletter
Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the Richland School Board, teachers, faculty, staff, parents, family, friends, and community members. My name is John DeBartola and I am the president of the Keystone Alliance/Gaylife Newsletter. I have been asked by Kasey and his family to speak to you tonight on his behalf as his advocate. Thank you for allowing me to speak to you.
I want to point out how important it is that as we are educating our young people it is important that we teach them the aspect of non-hate because hate is a big word as you probably know. We must teach our children not to hate. We must teach them tolerance of others, religious and other views. It is important that in educating our children that we also take into consideration that they are reaching adulthood, at least those in our own high school. The are becoming our future citizens, our future leaders, and how we treat them now will echo throughout their future and the future of all of our children. It is important that we respect their rights of choice, the rights for them to be the person that they are. Not to be someone else, not to be who someone thinks they should be but allow them the freedom of what this country was built upon and that is the freedom of the individual, the way to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the person they are.
I would ask you to honor this person, to honor them as they move forward into their journey into adulthood by accepting them for who they are, by showing them that you believe in them, that you believe in the constitution and their right as citizens and that what is most important here is not whether or not this person is an A student or a C student, they are a student. They deserve the rights and respect of others from their classmates and, perhaps, even more importantly, the teachers and the adults around them and especially from the School Board who can set an example of showing that they believe in individuals rights, they believe in the right of a person to choose to be who they truly are.
I would like to point out just one last thing and that is how important it is that since the School Board represents the community at large that it must realize that it is important to take a stand against bigotry and hate. I would hope that you will make the right decision concerning Kasey. We are requesting gender identity be added to the schools protection and the Keystone Alliance would like to sponsor a Youth Chapter here at the school with Kasey as President with your permission. Thank you very much.