Tue May 20, 2014
Louisville's Transgender Students: Henry Brousseau and the Question of Pronouns
Atherton High School is moving toward adopting an anti-discrimination policy that addresses a question: How should schools treat students whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth?
But countless transgender students attend Louisville schools that aren't Atherton—and questions remain. The restroom question that Atherton is addressing is just one.
All this week, we're going to look at what it means to be a transgender student in Louisville—through the eyes of some of those students.
Up first—the question of pronouns.
Henry Brousseau is a transgender student who attends Louisville Collegiate School. As he explains, it took his parents and school time to support his decision to come out. And with that decision came compromises.
Brousseau came out at school before coming out to his parents. That led to a next step.
"They [the school] did make me tell my parents before they would be allowed to call me Henry instead of Hannah," Brousseau says.
For transgender students, pronouns— him and her—are a big deal. And what kids and teachers know about a particular student before they come out can make it difficult to "pass" as the opposite sex assigned at birth.
This is what Brousseau experienced. For him, it was tough after coming out freshman year because many of the kids and teachers at Collegiate had already known Brousseau since kindergarten.
"A lot of people thought I was doing it for attention," he says.
Students at some schools meet with teachers or staff to talk about pronouns, names, or other changes that are appropriate for that student. And while the National Center for Transgender Equality outlines model policies for schools, each institution in Kentucky currently decides what policies to adopt.
In other states, like California, there are state-wide transgender policies in place.
At Collegiate, Brousseau says,it was an overall "pretty" negative experience during his freshman year and getting people's support was a challenge.
"It was a huge transition for everybody," he says.
It took about a year before teachers and students naturally called him Henry.
Brousseau has not legally changed his name--although students his age can with parental consent and about $200.
It also took his parents some time to come around. He says they're very supportive now, but at the beginning "it was very rough."
"They said some things that they regret now, but now they really try and they're my number one supporters," Brousseau says.
We'll continue exploring the difficulties transgender students face in schools throughout the week. Stay tuned.