A gender queer eighth grader wore a transgender pride flag as a cape during Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s visit to a Michigan school on Tuesday.
Torin Hodgman, 14, identifies as “gender queer” and prefers the pronoun “they” or “them,” MLIVE reported.
Hodgman said they wanted to make a statement when DeVos came for a roundtable discussion at Grand Rapids Public Museum School.
“Public schools are a place for all children,” Hodgman said.
Hodgman came prepared to ask Devos during the roundtable: “What is DeVos doing to ensure schools are safe learning environments for LGBT students and others who are questioning their gender identity?”
Unfortunately, Hodgman didn’t get to ask DeVos the question, but told MLIVE they hopes DeVos will push for policies to make school a safe place for transgender students.
While Hodgman said they feel safe at their Michigan school, LGBTQ students elsewhere do not.
The Trump administration drew scrutiny in early 2017 when it rescinded Obama-era guidelines permitting transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity. DeVos said the issue should be decided at the local level. But LGBT advocates said the move was callous and didn’t protect the rights of the LGBT community.
A national survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 75 percent of transgender students feel unsafe at school, and that “those who are able to persevere had significantly lower GPAs, were more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety, and were less likely to plan on continuing their education.”
“Out of all LGBTQ … and actually all teenagers, transgender and questioning people have a higher rate of suicide and deaths than anybody else,” Hodgman said.