Charlie Cranford Teague feels respected and accepted at South Lakes High School. Now, the gender-fluid teen from Reston, Virginia wants the same respect for transgender and gender-fluid students throughout Fairfax County schools.
"No one's entitled to take away my rights based on who I am," said Charlie, 16, who identifies as a girl and a boy. "I am not confused. I am not going through a phase."
Charlie attended the Fairfax County School Board meeting last night, where the board heard public comment on a proposal to add gender identity to the district's non-discrimination policy. That policy already included age, race, national origin, disability and religion; last November, the board added protections based on sexual orientation.
The comments at the podium seemed evenly split between support for the proposal and concern.
Supporters said the change would be a powerful statement of acceptance from the school district.
Transgender and gender-fluid students "would take that as complete support from the adults in their community," said Tara Cranford Teague, Charlie's mother, in an interview. "They need that support."
Charlie's father, Jason Cranford Teague, said, "It's difficult to see people who are so against a lifestyle that doesn't harm them in any way."
Some opponents voiced concerns that a policy change could lead to mixed-sex bathrooms.
"Providing such access is a safety issue," said Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, at the meeting. "It endangers children and violates the rights of both students and parents."
Several other Virginia school districts have recently dealt with transgender students. In Stafford County, an elementary school was permitting a transgender fourth-grader to use the bathroom of the gender with which the child identified. But some parents complained.
In March, the Stafford County school board responded by approving a superintendent's directive giving that student two choices: the bathroom that matched the student's sex assigned at birth or an adult restroom in the school.
Now a group called "Save our Schools" is urging the Stafford school board to formally bar any mixed-sex restrooms.
The Fairfax County school board will vote on the proposed amendment May 7. If it passes, the school district says it would hire a consultant to help plan policies, including bathroom use and locker rooms.
Meanwhile, Charlie, who has identified as a boy and a girl since second grade, believes that the Fairfax policy has to change.
"Why would you want to punish somebody for being who they are?" Charlie asked.
Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey contributed to this report.