A single social media post has incited anger on both sides of a debate concerning a young high school girl at Pilgrim and which restroom she is using.
Ashlynn Cameron, 16, is a transgender female at Pilgrim High School. On Saturday afternoon, April 30, the Warwick WATCH page, operated by Stacia Huyler, posted that they were “informed” of other female students who were uncomfortable using the same changing rooms as Ashlynn.
Quickly, proponents on both sides began posting to the thread, but many of the posts from individuals in support of Ashlynn’s rights started to be deleted.
One woman, Martine Amrtine Danielle Picard, a self-declared trans-ally and activist, wrote, “I watched for several hours as easily a thousand well-worded and civil messages, including my own, were posted to the Warwick WATCH wall in support of Ashlynn and I watched almost all of those comments deleted.”
Ashlynn herself posted to the thread, admitting that she is the transgender female the post was berating. She questioned why people were so angry when, by law, she is permitted to use whichever bathroom and changing room she identifies with.
“I don’t know how I make these girls uncomfortable when I change in the bathroom stall, which have doors, and I mind my own business!!,” she wrote. “What is so wrong with my rights as a transgender teen/person.”
She argues that she is entitled to rights as much as anyone else. On her specific thread there are several who congratulate Ashylnn on standing up for herself and pledging their support.
Warwick WATCH responded misrepresenting Ashlynn several times, trying to claim that transgender individuals have a mental disease that should be treated with therapy and repeatedly trying to discredit Ashlynn’s gender, calling her male and asserting her biological identity is her only one.
As the only transgender female in her school, Ashlynn asked where the Warwick WATCH had the right to “out her to the community.
Warwick WATCH replied with “All anyone has to do is see your personal Facebook page!!”
In opposition to the Warwick WATCH page the hashtag #IStandWithAshlynn quickly became popular on Facebook.
Many students from Pilgrim began posting their own support on Ashlynn’s Facebook as well. Current and past students from Pilgrim admitted that they have never been uncomfortable and have no problem sharing a changing room or bathroom with a transgender female. Similarly, Superintendent Philip Thornton said to date he has not received any complaints from parents or students to his office on the issue.
Although Thornton has not seen the Facebook debate himself, he said the school department would continue to support their students, that the “law is clear” and students may use whichever lavatory or changing room he or she identifies with.
“We are going to continue to follow the law because that’s what is best for our students,” he said in a phone interview Monday morning.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conducted a national survey that found more than 75 percent of transgender youth feel unsafe at their schools, and 59 percent of transyouth are denied access to the proper restroom.
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, released in 2011 by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said that throughout New England 81 percent of transgender and non-gender conforming students experienced harassment while in school, 34 percent physical assault and 13 percent sexual violence. The organization is releasing their second survey later this year.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, in their 2013 national report on hate violence for the LGBTQ community found that the transgender community experiences violence and hate crimes at a disproportionate rate than any other community. Seventy-two percent of all hate violence homicides were against transgender women. Transgender women are also nearly two times as likely to experience sexual violence against them.
Many comments from supporters expressed astonishment at the views of individual’s posts that were allowed to stay posted, in disbelief that grown adults would “bully” a child in such a way.
One commenter, Angela Baker Bray, wrote, “You’re picking on a minor…You realize that right? You have become a cyber bully.”
When the Beacon reached out to Huyler she said, “I have nothing to say to you” and promptly hung up.