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Students, assistant principal respond to new anti-LGBTQ legislation

Deadnaming is the act of referring to someone by the name they no longer use, and if junior Ren Olson had to come out as transgender again today, he said there would be a possibility he would choose to keep his dead name.

“(If) I knew that the school was going to tell my parents (about my desire to change my name and pronouns) and I didn’t want to tell them, I would’ve been so terrified,” Olson said. “I probably would’ve just kept with my dead name and the wrong pronouns and just kept presenting as the wrong gender identity that isn’t the person that I actually am.”

Olson represents one perspective of the debate on whether or not schools should notify parents if their child asks to change their name or pronouns. On Feb. 20, the House Education Committee passed House Bill 1608 (HB 1608) an ongoing bill that would require schools to notify parents of a student’s request to change their name or pronouns. On April 11, the Senate amended the bill to eliminate the need for parental consent and softened the language to parental notification instead. As of April 28, the House passed the bill, which will now head to Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk.

Sophomores Lynn Perrin and Izzy Holtz partake in a discussion about issues that transgender students face at school and in life in general during a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) meeting on Wednesday, April 19. (Devyn Sapper)

For this school, the bill—passed or not—will not impact the school’s process of changing names. According to Assistant Principal Maureen Borto, the school already involves the parent or guardian if a student asks to change their name or pronouns.

Borto said, “As a school, we would still notify a parent (even if the student did not want their parent to be notified) just because when you’re still within the school setting, your parent is your educational guardian even if (the student) turned 18.”

However, for sophomore Lynn Perrin’s part, she said this policy should change.

“Not everyone has a safe environment at home, and the policy currently only makes it more dangerous for queer students,” she said. “I am very grateful for the mostly supportive environment at CHS, but I was only allowed to change my name with my parents’ permission. Luckily, I had supportive parents, but that isn’t the case with everyone.”

Olson said he agreed with Perrin. For Olson, he said his parents were initially unsupportive, which made the process of changing his name and pronouns more difficult.

“(When) I tried to get my name changed in the (school’s) system, my counselor did tell my parents—thankfully, they already knew about it,” Olson said. “But, it made it so much harder because I had to convince my parents and convince them that (my name) was going to change. I had to stand my ground and stuff like that.”

Moreover, Caitlyn Mount, Gender and Sexuality Alliance vice president and junior, said notifying a parent of a name or pronoun change carries an unnecessary negative connotation.

On Wednesday, April 19, Junior Caitlyn Mount, vice president of the Carmel Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) presents new information of current legislation concerning LGBTQ+ issues at the beginning of GSA’s meeting. (Devyn Sapper)

Mount said, “It feels like when schools want to report (name or pronoun changes to parents), it feels kind of similar to reporting a problem like a drug addiction or violent behavior or mental health issues. It feels something like that and those are all very negative things. I don’t think that the way students express themselves is inherently negative.”

Still, despite those arguments, Borto said communication between the school and parents is important.

Borto said, “I think communication at home with parents or guardians is essential in regards to anything whether it’s specific to a student or just in terms of a policy we’re doing or a change in something. A parent or a guardian may not always agree with something that we’re doing at the high school, but they understand what’s happening, why it’s happening and what it looks like.”

Additionally, Borto said there can be a balance between recognizing parents’ rights to know of such changes and supporting students in the process.

Borto said, “We will involve (parents and guardians), so we work with the student in determining when. Is it right after the first conversation? Do they want to go home and talk with their parents and then have us reach out?

Arjun Purohit

“(Even if the parents do not support the change), we would still change it based on the student’s choice,” she added. “We want to support any student no matter what they’re going through or dealing with or the choices they’re making.”

On the other hand, Perrin said she cannot see the potential for such balance in the bill.

“No matter what form this bill takes, it is still harmful to students. It restricts their education and enforces toxic parenting,” she said.

While Olson said he can see the school’s perspective in needing to communicate with parents, he said the bill and the school’s policy overlook the effects of outing someone to their parents. 

“I think (there can be balance), but I think the safety of the student should be valued more than the parents’ rights in education,” he said. “Coming out should always be on your own terms. (There are factors) that can make it harder for someone who is outed and who wasn’t ready to come out like bullying, abuse, insensitive comments, hate speech (and) all this stuff. When you come out, you accept that those things can and probably will happen to you. But, if you’re outed, you aren’t ready for the world to know (your identity), and you aren’t ready to deal with those things.”

Ultimately, Olson said recognizing someone’s gender identity, name and pronouns is important.

“(I get misgendered) every day,” he said. “Depending on when it happens and what I’m going through on (that day), sometimes I can just let it roll off my shoulder, (but) sometimes it ruins my entire day. It can be so hurtful, especially when it’s your friend, just for them to be like, ‘She—Oh wait no, he. Sorry. I’m so sorry.’ Just to know that they don’t see you as your gender identity, it’s incredibly hurtful.

“(This bill is) going to make it a lot harder for those kids to recognize their identities, and it’s going to increase the stigma around LGBT identities,” he added.

In anticipation of pride month, Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) members make signs to put in the bathrooms and around the school in May. (Devyn Sapper)

HB 1608 also highlights the growing number of anti-LGBTQ legislation nationwide, especially targeting minors. In fact, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, there have been 467 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed just this year.

In light of the increasing anti-LGBTQ legislation, Mount said people should respect the rights of LGBTQ individuals. LGBTQ individuals, Mount said, are humans.

“I think that these bills really create an ‘us versus them’ narrative, which I think is really harmful towards the (LGBTQ) community because (LGBTQ) people are everywhere,” Mount said. “They’re not just some demons that lurk in the shadows. They’re your students, your classmates, your peers, your friends and your family.”

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