The state of Texas heads to court on Friday to defend its bid to block the Obama administration’s recent guidance that said public schools should allow transgender students to use restrooms according to their gender identity.
It’s not just lawmakers who are fighting over the issue -- it’s the people who are living it every day, including a 4-year-old and her mother in Pearland.
As soon as she could, Kai Shappley gravitated towards dresses and dolls. But even though she was born a boy named Joseph Paul, she made it clear what she identified as.
“By age 3, she was verbalizing, 'I’m a girl, you know I’m a girl,'” said Kimberly Shappley, Kai’s mother.
At first, it was a huge hurdle for Kimberly, a devout Christian. She admitted to a period of punishment towards Kai, until the child’s behavior proved traumatic.
“When your 4-year-old is praying to die, you know you have to do something,” Shappley said.
Shappley joined forces with Equality Texas, an LGBTQ advocacy group, and began speaking out at public events. But not everyone accepts transgender people, and at Pearland ISD, where Kai is headed for kindergarten, the superintendent has voiced his anti-LGBTQ feelings.
And against President Obama’s suggestions, Dr. Kelly will not change his district’s policy.
“They’re not going to look at this little girl and tell her she can’t use the girl’s restroom,” Shappley said.
Tuesday night, during public comment at the district’s board meeting, she said a few words to the board.
“I’m not fighting over bathrooms. I’m fighting over her life. I’m fighting about her well-being,” Shappley said.
She wasn’t the only one, as a group of supporters sat behind her.
“It’s the position of the heart of a young man or young woman that’s not going away,” said a Pearland ISD parent.
They all gathered in the hopes of getting a message across.
“Basic human rights. That you can’t take someone that is different from you and separate and segregate them,” Shappley said.
It’s unclear if the issue will appear on the next agenda or if anything will change.
The district released the following statement:
“Pearland ISD’s stance on transgender students remains children whose parents declare them transgender must go to the bathroom for the sex indicated on their birth certificate. Such students have also been allowed to use a private bathroom (such as in the nurse’s station) if they are so inclined. All Pearland ISD kindergarten classrooms have a private, gender-neutral bathroom within the classroom for student use.”