By Greg Hernandez
“I get bulled for being trans and I want to express how I feel.”
The more than 1,500 Hollywood High School students at the school’s LGBT Club special assembly fell silent. All eyes were on the teenage transgender student now standing alone and speaking center stage.
“I’ve been through a lot in my life,” she continued. “It’s not right to be transphobic. I’m just trying to succeed in life and I feel like I don’t deserve this bullying.”
Her courage, strength, and tears were met with applause from the students.
The special Hollywood High assembly was planned by the student LGBT Club which is supported by the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Communication Action Network (CAN).
“We provide them with the assistance they need to help them succeed,” said CAN Program Supervisor Mike Freeman. “That can be anything from finding material, identifying potential guest speakers, and offering guidance and advice. It’s all about giving them an opportunity to be leaders and to shine.”
As part of the LifeWorks youth development and leadership program, CAN collaborates with local high school and middle school GSAs and LGBTQ clubs on a regular basis across the greater Los Angeles area to build capacity for change through LGBTQ competency trainings and leadership workshops for LGBTQ youth and allies.
Social Sciences teacher Michael Bitran, faculty sponsor of Hollywood High School’s LGBT Club, was impressed by the students who made the assembly happen. The school had its first-ever LGBT assembly last year and the current leaders of the club were determined to continue the tradition and keep educating their fellow students about the LGBT community.
“I’m so proud of all the kids and all the work they put into it,” the teacher said. “You can tell how much they care about wanting to make this school a positive place for everyone.”
“I’m really happy that my school is this respectful of the LGBT community,” said Hollywood High’s LGBT Club president.”
The school’s marching band kicked things off at the assembly, which included a video presentation highlighting recent LGBT equality advances as well as milestones in LGBT history.
During a later video, students sat in silence as the faces of transgender murder victims were shown. Students turned on the flashlights on their phones in a show of respect. This has been the deadliest year for transgender people in U.S. history with 27 trans people murder in 2017.
“Homophobia and transphobia are not a thing of the past – they are still very prevalent,” the club’s vice president told her fellow students.
What The Law Says
The student organizers wanted hard facts and invited representatives from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office to present them to the students.
Students were informed that the California Education Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression in public schools and non-religious private schools. This includes calling a student by their chosen name and gender pronoun, and allowing them to dress in conformity with their gender identity.
“Your school does not have the right to out you to anyone without your permission even if you’re out to other people at school. A teacher, counselor or any other school official cannot threaten to tell your parents or anyone else,” said Melanie Quintero, LGBTQ Victim Service Coordinator at the City Attorney’s office.
Quintero added: “if anyone at school is threatening or harassing you, it is crucial that you report it to your principal or a counselor.”