Mom Would Rather Teen Fail School Than Share Changing Room With Transgender Students

girl's locker room

One of the most important lessons I hope to impart to my children is compassion. It is my hope that they will be the kind of people who will stand up for the child being bullied, who will feel hurt themselves when they see another person being hurt, and who will not be afraid to do what is right for the minority even when there is pressure to side with the majority. Which is why one woman's campaign in Pennsylvania to get her daughter excused from gym class on the basis of "religious objection" -- because a transgender girl might also use the changing room -- is particularly vexing.


The girl, 14-year-old Sigourney Coyle, along with her mother, Aryn, asked the school board to exempt her from gym since, according to her religious beliefs, the first male she should be naked before is her husband. Therefore, the presence of girls who were born with male parts somehow violates her religious rights. Her mother proposed that transgender teens change before the other girls (which, by the way, is the very definition of discrimination), but that was struck down as an alternative. Coyle has said that she'd rather let Sigourney fail gym -- and therefore, not graduate from high school.

In a Facebook post, Coyle said:

I have always been an advocate of any special arrangement that prevents any group of people from being mistreated based on who they are. But I will NOT stand by while the law dictates that male bodies are allowed to walk into my daughter's locker room, undress next to her, and shower alongside of her. Whether or not the male bodies are covered in pants or skirts is irrelevant. They have no place in her locker room.

I get it. As she understands it, being transgender basically means that a boy wants to dress up in girls' clothing to get access to the girls' locker room. This interpretation is not uncommon among sheltered people who want to push their religious, conservative political agenda. But it is wrong. Dead wrong. And that unwillingness to truly understand another person's path is everything that is wrong with her interpretation of religion, as well as everything I hope to teach my own children not to believe.

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Christianity should mean compassion. It should mean a deep understanding of and care over another person's suffering. But people like Coyle try to use their faith to justify discrimination, ostracization, and cruelty to kids who have likely experienced all of those things their entire lives already.

My children and I have already had the talk about people who are transgender, and the truth is, it was a non-issue. I told them some people are born into the wrong bodies and they need to fix that.

"Okay," they said and moved on.

But if further discussion would have ensued, I was prepared with this: Imagine being born into a body that doesn't feel like the one you should have been born into. Imagine your brain knowing you were one gender while your "parts" say otherwise. And now imagine a world that insists you stay in the box that was checked the day you were born because it somehow violates their rights to think outside of it.

You'd be pretty miserable, right?

No transgender person wants "special" rights. They just want to be able to do what the other girls or boys do. They don't want to see other girls or boys naked, they want to be with the gender they truly are on the inside. And this is where compassion comes in.

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Coyle (and others like her) probably would say she is against bullying, but what she is doing here is bullying. She is calling out a girl who just wants to be able to quietly change her clothing. She is calling out a very small minority in order to serve her daughter who is part of the very loud, very vocal majority. She may feel she is being a good mother, but she isn't.

Because being a good mother means helping your child toward a greater understanding of the world. Better for her daughter to find a private place to change quietly if it really makes her that uncomfortable, than to call this out in such a public way. And also: Since when do girls strip down to complete nakedness in the gym locker room? I went to school 20 years ago, but even then the locker rooms had private areas for changing and no one got sweaty enough to necessitate a full change of clothing.

Of course, that is beside the point. Because I feel for Sigourney Coyle. She is being raised to believe that her beliefs can be used to hurt and squash others. She is being raised to believe that her "rights" include trouncing on the rights of others in the name of religion. She is being raised to believe that her beliefs and discomfort are more important than another person's. Always.

Maybe someday it will be my daughter or son who is being discriminated against. Or maybe it will be Coyle's. What would she do then? We have to make progress as a society toward compassion and protection for the minority from this kind of bullying on such a large stage. There will be misguided people who agree with Coyle, thus further ostracizing transgender girls and boys.

My heart aches for them. But it also aches for Sigourney Coyle and so many like her. The world is leaving her behind and she's only 14. Let's all hope that as she grows, her mind grows with her, and she is able to escape the terrible influence of her mother.

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Because, let's face it, the future of the world is in our children. What we teach them now is what they will put out into the universe years from now. As a mom, I view my role not only as shaping the future of my own family, but also as helping to mold the world into what I know it can truly be: a place of compassion and love and acceptance to all of God's children.


Image via Alan Bailey/Shutterstock

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