ATLANTA – Three years ago, on his first day of eighth grade, James Liming wrote his new name on a school form.
During his first two years at DeSana Middle School in Forsyth County, everyone had known him by the name his parents gave him at birth. A girl’s name. Now she was going out like him.
James was so nervous about the transition that he wouldn’t tell his parents for a month. He didn’t even tell the librarian at the school he had bonded with for the past two years, the woman he visited daily to talk about dance recitals and the band Twenty One Pilots .
However, the librarian quickly learned from her fellow teachers. Much to James’ relief, she embraced her new identity. Instead of rejecting him, she offered to let him use the staff restroom. She also loaned him a book, “Gracefully Grayson,” one of the few titles she had acquired on transgender children.
“Just reading it and knowing that there was someone recommending that sort of thing, and knowing that there were those kinds of books in the library, was really reassuring,” James said, now. 16 years old and a high school student.
Younger students might not find the same support if lawmakers facilitate banning books and materials from school libraries.
A national movement targeting material considered obscene is gaining ground in Georgia. He garnered strong support in the Georgia General Assembly which is meeting this month. House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, a Republican from Milton, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in November that “children should be protected from documents inappropriate for their age” and that she is drafting legislation to address them. reach schools.
Jones said she wanted a consistent statewide process for filtering online documents accessible in schools. And she said she wanted to give parents more influence over the selections. It doesn’t specifically identify transgender issues, but others do.
When former public schools superintendent John Barge announced in November that he was campaigning for his old job, he said schools are not the place to “talk to kids, you know they can be. the kind they want to be.
And Noelle Kahaian, director of anti-obscenity group Protect Student Health Georgia, testified at the Georgia General Assembly last spring for legislation that would standardize the process of banning the material. She also wants school librarians to be exempt from a state law that allows prosecution of people who provide “harmful” material to minors. (The law focuses on visual representations involving sex.)
Kahaian said documents involving transgender issues do not belong to public schools. She believes they are fueling a “social contagion” of children questioning their gender. “Any ideology, especially around sexuality, should be the domain of the parents,” she said.
Twenty percent of transgender and non-binary youth who responded to a survey for The Trevor Project said they attempted suicide in the past 12 months, the support group reported this year. The rate was lower for those who attended “assertiveness” school.
James finally told his parents about his new identity, but his mother did not learn his new name until a teacher sent home a postcard saying “James” was doing a great job and a joy. to have in class.
Mary Liming said she and her husband initially struggled to learn that their daughter was now their son, although they tried to support them. “It was very heartwarming for me to know that there were adults in her life who could kind of cope with it,” she said.
James said people are gay or transgender no matter what they read. He has spoken at recent Forsyth School Board meetings in support of the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion agenda, serving as a counterpoint to his critics.
Banning books on these subjects in school libraries will encourage bigotry and intimidation, he said, “or it will create children who will not grow beyond their youth because they don’t feel like there is someone who will support them “.
DeSana’s librarian at the time, Tess MacMillan, said every student should be able to find a story in their school library that resonates with them. So she acquired a handful of titles with transgender characters.
No one complained, MacMillan said. Indeed, after James left DeSana, she started a gay club that drew nearly two dozen children.
“James really made a difference at DeSana,” she said. “He agreed to talk about it.”
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