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Davis

Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Residents debate rights of trans youth at recent school board meeting

Activists, families and DJUSD community members address anti-trans rhetoric across the nation and in Davis

 

By CHRIS PONCE  city@theaggie.org 

 

Content Warning: This article contains discussions of transphobia.

 

Davis Joint Unified School District’s (DJUSD) recent school board meetings have featured discussion and controversy regarding the rights of transgender and non-binary youth. On April 6, DJUSD held its first meeting of the month. And while it was not an item that was listed on the agenda, during the public comment portion of the meeting, many residents shared support for trans youth while some residents expressed anti-trans rhetoric. 

The second speaker of the public comment portion who said she is a Davis resident, a mother of two kids and a registered Democrat addressed the school board. She approached the podium with a Davis Phoenix Coalition flyer, which advertised a drag show workshop hosted by the Davis Queer Teen Group, in her hand.

She asked the school board to break ties with the Davis Phoenix Coalition, accusing the group of hosting the event without parental consent. The speaker stated that the drag workshop was “sexual” and said that the organization was committing “predatory behavior.” 

Anoosh Jorjorian, founder of Inclusive Futures Consulting and director of Yolo Rainbow Families (a Davis Phoenix Coalition project), said that the kids in attendance at the school board meeting laughed at the way the speaker characterizes the drag workshop. Jorjorian discussed the drag workshop in more detail, expressing its popularity with students.

“We had a drag workshop for our Davis Queer Teen group,” Jorjorian said. “We had to move that location of that workshop because we were concerned that the anti-trans parents had discovered the location, so we wanted to make sure that activity was secure, and it went well. The kids had a blast […] One of the parents supplied dresses and wigs for that. One of our facilitators had put together makeup kits, some of the makeup was donated by community members and the kids just had so much fun. We [were] smiling and laughing and interacting with each other in a way that would just warm any parent’s heart.”

Allie Snyder, another speaker at the school board meeting, claimed she was “publicly denounced” prior to the meeting for being “hateful.” Snyder spoke in opposition to gender-affirming care and after the meeting, took to Twitter to share her exchange with the board. In Snyder’s Twitter post, she shared that she participated in a local protest in Davis during which demonstrators held signs that Jorjorian said had anti-trans messaging on them. 

Jorjorian discussed the protest and how anti-trans protests like these LGBTQIA+ youth in the community. 

“In this campaign, they have done things like shown up in front of the Davis High School with signs and banners that have anti-trans messages,” Jorjorian said. “There was one banner that mentioned surgical transition on the same level as lobotomies, so it’s really offensive and it’s also been extremely harmful for our kids who are trans and gender-expansive as well as the others who are LGB, but are cisgender, but know that their peers and friends are being attacked in this campaign.”

The recent school board meeting garnered more attention following Snyder’s tweet. On April 12, InfoWars, a right-wing news outlet founded by Alex Jones, published an article about Snyder’s comments at the DJUSD school board meeting. InfoWars criticized the Davis Phoenix Coalition and supported Snyder’s work. Jorjorian discussed the backlash the Davis Phoenix Coalition received for their advocacy and shared how many members reacted to the article. 

“Unfortunately this is not the first time the Phoenix Coalition has been attacked by the right-wing [media],” Jorjorian said. “First of all, one of the moms who is leading this campaign is in direct contact with the person who runs the ‘Libs of TikTok’ social media account. […] I, personally, have needed to be very conscious about my security, since I am named in these [articles]. I am concerned about my safety and my family.”

While Jorjorian expressed concern about this media attention, she said the group is not intimidated.

“We have a small group of people who live in Davis, headed up by two moms of children in our school district, who have picked up this national campaign against trans kids’ rights,” Jorjorian said. “And so they have been railing against the Davis Queer Teen Group and against various services that are provided to kids in the Davis school system.” 

Jorjorian mentioned that while there is an anti-trans campaign that has trickled into Davis, the majority of residents has signaled support for trans and gender-expansive children in the community. At the school board meeting, many DJUSD trustees expressed support for trans students as well. 

“We are looking to protect our children from any kind of abuse,” DJUSD Trustee Elizabeth Moon said at the meeting. “And sometimes that abuse happens in the home, sometimes it happens in the community and sometimes it happens by organizations who believe that they are doing the right thing when they’re not […] We as a community, and [I] particularly, will not stand for anyone not supporting our trans children [and] not supporting our LGBTQ community. If you have an issue as an individual, keep it to yourself and your family and work it out and have communication with your family. It is not your right to take away someone else’s right.”

DJUSD shared that its goal is to protect all children, but specifically trans youth, in the Davis community. It cited the Nondiscrimnation/Harassment policy and “We All Belong” Resolution from 2017, which set aside protections for gender-expansive and trans students.

“We know that when students have a strong sense of belonging at school, they perform better, have more meaningful relationships and, as a result, they have increased opportunities for the future. Our [“We All Belong”] resolution aligns with legislation, board policy and administrative regulations,” a representative for DJUSD said via email. “Our top priorities are to ensure the safety, well-being and mental health of our students and to ignite their love of learning, all while increasing their feelings of acceptance in their community.” 

Another speaker at the meeting, a 10th-grade student, shared their reaction to the anti-trans rhetoric in Davis. 

“I come to you as a teenager,” the speaker said. “A 10th grader, talking about the rights of my friends, which are so quickly being stripped away in other places, and by the people who they thought they could trust. Davis is a small town, I grew up here, I know it like the back of my hand. And I hate to see it spiral into a place that isn’t safe for me, for people like me, [for] my friends and all of the queer people in the world. I’d hate to see it become somewhere where they can’t be themselves. At the end of the day, queer people do not decide to be queer, they do not get forced by adults in their life to be queer.”

Written By: Chris Ponce city@theaggie.org