School Backpedals After Ousting Transgender Student
byKaitlin StanfordAug 20, 2014
Coming out as transgender isn't easy, especially when breaking the news to friends and family. And when you're 13 years old? Well, that can be even harder.
So when New Jersey teen Brian Pepe came out to his family earlier this year, we're sure it took a good amount of courage to get out the words. But as it turned out, his biggest hurdle wouldn't be facing rejection from friends or his family — it would be heading back to school in the fall as a girl.
According to reports, trouble started when the middle-schooler's mom reached out to a school official earlier this summer and shared that her child would be returning as Rachel. The response she got from the official at Thorne Middle School was more than chilly, to say the least. Not only was she told that Rachel would not be allowed back; but the official also informed her that they were unable to find the 13-year-old an alternative.
As Rachel's mom Angela Peters later shared with the Asbury Park Press, her daughter suffered from depression even before becoming Rachel, so the school's apathetic response hasn't exactly helped matters.
"He was going to school last year as Brian," she said. "How can I send her back as Rachel? And I am not sending her back as Brian because the depression will start again."
"She would get off the bus and just cry," Peters continued. "Then she would go to sleep for 17 or 20 hours and refuse to go back there."
"I sort of felt something was missing, that something was wrong," Rachel said of her own struggles with gender identity.
"This is just recently I realized I wanted to be a girl," she said, before adding that the name Rachel just came to her. "It just fits," she said.
On Monday, though, news broke that likely put a smile on Rachel's face for the first time in a while. After the school's superintendent William O. George became aware of the incident, he stepped forward to not only confirm that Rachel would be welcomed back with open arms, but also to say that she'd find a safe environment waiting for her when she got there.
George has since mandated that all Middletown Township Public Schools staff undergo lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender "sensitivity training" in the coming months. And while we can't believe there has to be a special training course for that, it's at least some good news for Rachel and her other LGBT classmates.
"We applaud Superintendent George for taking the right steps to affirm the health and safety of students,"GSE Executive Director Andrea Bowen said in a statement. "This is a victory for transgender students everywhere."