Public schools across the country participated in an annual event to support transgender and gender-expansive students Thursday by reading I Am Jazz, a book that tells the real-life story of Jazz Jennings, who was a transgender child.
In some schools – like Ashlawn Elementary School in Arlington, Va. – the book was read to kindergarteners.
“I have a girl brain but a boy body. This is called transgender. I was born this way,” Sarah McBride, a transgender person and a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, read to kindergarteners from the book.
The Washington Post covered McBride’s talk to the children.
“I'm like Jazz,” McBride told the children when done reading. “When I was born, the doctors and my parents, they all thought that I was a boy.”
McBride asked the students, “Can some girls have short hair? And can some boys have long hair?”
One girl responded, “Anyone can be anything.”
The fourth-annual “Jazz and Friends National Day of School and Community Readings” was sponsored by HRC, a gay rights group, and the National Educational Association, the nation’s largest teachers union. The event spotlights transgender and gender-expansive students. Other books on the list: Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love and They She He Me: Free to Be!by Maya and Matthew Smith Gonzalez.
Jaim Foster, an openly gay man, teaches the kindergarteners at Ashlawn Elementary. When he began teaching 20 years ago, he couldn’t discuss his sexuality to his students.
“I was told I had to stop being that advocate, and I had to go back into the closet because it wasn't really safe,” Foster told The Post. “You could be fired.”
Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA, said the annual event is even more important in light of the Trump administration’s position on the issue. After President Trump took office, his administration rescinded Obama-era guidelines that said public school students should be allowed to use whichever restroom they wish.
“Every child in America has the fundamental right to feel safe, welcomed, and valued in our nation’s public schools,” García said. “As educators, by standing with transgender and non-binary students on Jazz and Friends National Day of School and Community Readers, we are sending a powerful message of inclusion, love and support. Now more than ever, we need to do what is right for our most vulnerable students and continue to strive towards becoming more acceptable and protective in light of the efforts by the Trump administration to threaten and marginalize them.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Yannis Papanastasopoulos/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.