A 12-year-old transgender student delivered an inspiring speech to the East Penn School District board Monday evening and opens a few minds in the process.
Ari Bowman addressed the East Penn School board to counter a recent complaint from another student who told the board she did not want to share the same changing room as a transgender student for “religious reasons.” Bowman decided to take a stand and set the school board straight on the issue.
“The hate that the transgender community has been receiving recently is terrible. People say things without an open mind and as if we are not human beings like they are.”
The Christian teen that filed the complaint was urging the district to disregard the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender bathroom rights. Ari and his mother Alisa both spoke in front of the school board in defense of transgender rights.
Here are some excerpts from Ari’s speech:
“Hello, my name is Ari and I’m transgender,” said Bowman. “You might not know that from the look of me but I enjoy normal things. I play soccer. I play video games just like anybody else. I came out to all of my friends over the summer and they were all supportive of me. I change in the boy’s locker room and I have seen zero genitalia, which is kind of why I do not understand why people make the assumption that a transgender girl would accidentally reveal herself in the locker room.”
Bowman said that he knew he was transgender before he knew what gender was. And he credits his mother for realizing he was transgender in the third grade. He changed his name to Ari in the fifth grade.
“I also had my fair share of struggles,” Said Bowman, “In first grade, the girls wouldn’t let me use the bathroom even though I had female genitalia. They only cared that I looked like a guy and that made them uncomfortable.”
Regarding the transgender community, Bowman went on to say:
“The hate that the transgender community has been receiving recently is terrible. People say things without an open mind and as if we are not human beings like they are. Today people are valuing on another over not just the gender and sexuality we are talking about, but race, religion, looks and even political stances. No one is more important than the other person.”
In closing to a cheering audience, Bowman also said:
“My life doesn’t revolve around me being transgender,. It revolves around my family, my friends, everything I love and all the conversations I have about Algebra 1 honors questions. As my mom likes to say, people are afraid of the things that they don’t understand. I hope that you understand what being transgender means. It doesn’t make me any less or any more. It makes me ‘me’ and no one can change that.”
Bowman’s mother, Alisa, uploaded a video of the speech on Facebook. I was sobbing along the way,” Alisa told BuzzFeed. “I sort of knew what his speech was going to be, but some different things came out of him that night that totally blew me away.”
According to The Morning Call, Superintendent Michael Schilder reiterated Monday that the district feels it is in full compliance with Title IX regulations. He also pledged “to uphold the rights of transgender students and to support them in whatever way possible in their often difficult personal journey.”
Watch the video of Bowman’s speech below.