JACKSON, Miss. – A transgender Mississippi girl who skipped graduation because school officials told her to follow the boys dress code says she celebrated the conclusion of high school with a tropical-themed party at home with family members who embrace her full identity.
The 17-year-old girl and her parents told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that they will remain outspoken about trans people's rights, even as states restrict or ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors. Mississippi enacted such a law this year, and a 2021 law bars trans people from girls or women's sports.
The girl requested to be identified only by her initials, L.B., because of her family's concerns about her safety. AP is not identifying the parents by their names because of those concerns.
“We deserve rights as as humans," L.B. said Wednesday. "And I feel like there’s definitely a stigma towards our community. ... It’s very disappointing.”
L.B. said classmates and teachers were supportive as she wore feminine clothing throughout her years at Harrison Central High School in Gulfport, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) south of Jackson. The school allowed L.B. to use a staff restroom so she wouldn't have to use restrooms assigned specifically to girls or boys, her mother said.
Harrison Central Principal Kelly Fuller and school district Superintendent Mitchell King told the family this month that L.B. must follow the boys dress code for graduation, according to a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union filed last week against the district. The district said that along with the cap and gown, boys were expected to wear white shirts and black slacks, while girls were expected to wear white dresses.
L.B. had already selected a dress for graduation, which was held Saturday, and the lawsuit said she should not face discriminatory treatment.
Wynn Clark, attorney for the Harrison County School District, argued in court papers that participation in a graduation ceremony is voluntary and not a constitutionally protected right. A federal judge ruled in favor of the school district.
L.B.'s father said he told his daughter even before the court hearing that she had won by standing up for herself.
“I still tell her this to this day," her father said. “She won.”
Both parents support L.B. “100%,” her mother said.
“We both are very proud of her for being as confident as she is, and being willing to stand up and speak out for those that are afraid to speak out for themselves," her mother said.
L.B. wore a blue dress and spoke at a Trans Prom on Monday near the U.S. Capitol. She said she plans to take a year off before pursuing a business degree with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur. She said she also loves music and art and wants to strengthen her skills in both.
L.B.'s mother described her daughter as “the most awesome person I’ve ever met in my life.”
“You can ask anybody that knows her,” L.B.’s mother said. “She is the most compassionate, caring — I mean, she is a beautiful person inside and out. And we will continue ... as long as we have to, to make sure that her story is heard.”