Trans Rights in Frederick County


By Shreeya Agarwal


On Wednesday March 8th, the first transgender rights rally in the history of Frederick County was instigated in front of the Board of Education.


Residents from across the county and beyond gathered together in a spectacular show of support as students, teachers, and peers voiced words of concern and encouragement. Signs painted with colorful messages, such as “You are loved” and “Protect trans kids,” highlighting the tensions that had been felt throughout the LGBT community, were on full display for the attendees and outside onlookers. Student member of the Board of Education, Carter Gipson, was pleasantly surprised at the immense turnout, “ I was excited to see all the parents and community members come out to the Board meeting”.


The rally, organized by Thomas Johnson High School student James Van Kuilenburg, was initiated as a platform for free speech concerning the rights of transgender students in Frederick County Public Schools. Numerous organizations and groups such as OpenBookUSA, the Frederick Center, and TJ GSA (Thomas Johnson High School GSA) were all present during the event to express their support. Critical issues such as bathroom laws, gender identity, pronouns/names, and bullying were just some of the important matters that were brought up during the subsequent Board of Education meeting.


Frederick County is one of few counties in Maryland that has pledged in some form to uphold Title IX ( Federal law concerning discrimination in schools on the basis of sex). According to Gipson, “ [the Board] has not had public consideration, it has now just started to create consistent policy to address the issue [transgender rights]”. With the Board now taking initiative steps towards the establishment of comprehensible school policy, members of the LGBT community have decided to take a stand in order to have a direct influence on the policy-making process.


Nearly twenty six individuals, including students, teachers, and parents, were called to speak in front of the Board to address concerns and suggestions for school policy. Oakdale Student M.K Meyers, an avid trans right advocate and one of the student speakers, stated her vision in regards to the meeting, “The main thing I want to see tackled by the Board of  Education is education about transgender rights, the struggles that students face, and even the history that no one knows about. Both teachers and students need to learn about this so they can help their counterparts.” She briefly mentioned the Stonewall Riots of 1969 as part of the history.


Education was definitely a topic that was addressed during the meeting as students and teachers voiced their support for a possible training seminar or health lesson geared towards the enhancement of knowledge on transgender issues.


In addition to education, the most contentions discussion surrounded bullying. Emotions were high as many students reminisced on their painful experiences at school to the Board members who were intently listening. Meyers expanded on the topic by discussing that bullying is one of the biggest challenges faced by the transgender community, “People face many emotional difficulties throughout the day. For me it’s mostly emotional, but for some it’s actually physical difficulties where someone may get dehydrated because they can’t go to the bathroom due the fear that they’ll get beaten up”.


The meeting, according to many of the attendees, was an overall success. Gipson described the event as “ emotional but fundamentally optimistic,”while Meyers elaborated with her statement, “I think we’ve already had an impact and I think it’s a positive one.”


Under Trump’s administration it is obvious that issues such as transgender rights have come under the spotlight in terms of school policy. Therefore, it is undoubtedly critical that students and other members of the community come forward to address the underlying issues that surround LGBT youth in schools. As Gipson states, “It’s always important to make sure that students are educated and prepared to enter the workspace, and it’s difficult for them if they’re uncomfortable and not welcome and safe”.