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Advocates reflect on District 211 electoral victory
by Matt Simonette
2017-05-10

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In the weeks following an electoral victory in support of trans students in one suburban school district, rights advocates called the election a vote "on the right side of history" that portended much more work across the nation.

Voters, on April 4, elected a slate of candidates—two incumbents and one new member—to Township High School District 211, in the Northwest suburbs, who stood in support of rules that in 2015 allowed a transgender girl access to the girls' locker room at her Palatine school. That slate includes Edward Yung, Robert LeFevre and Anna Klimkowicz.

"I am incredibly happy and proud of the moms, neighbors and allies that have decided to fight back for their schools and community," said Hayden Mora, a transgender-rights activist who co-founded Washington, D.C.-based Trans United Fund, which advocates for trans rights and worked intensely in District 211.

Mora said that the election displayed that when voters have information about candidates and issues at stake, "they vote on the right side of history."

Trans United Fund worked alongside parents, Equality Illinois and local activists, among them LaSaia Wade, whom Mora credited with bringing the election to national attention.

Wade said, "We were able to educate a lot of folks about what was happening with trans rights. That's why I feel we were able to pull off large numbers like this in the election."

Mora added, "I've been organizing for 18 years, and I've rarely had the opportunity to see something where so many different types of people worked together. It shows what's possible. Many times we've seen what division looks like, and this is what it looks like when we're united."

The District 211 episode spoke to broader challenges educating the public about trans-rights, according to Mora. He mentioned going to a school meeting in Maryland where trans persons were referred to as "cross-dressers" by individuals who recited talking-points provided by the Alliance Defending Families, which opposes LGBT-rights for students and stirred up the anti-trans backlash in the local districts. Indeed, even as the District 211 candidates won, in Palatine's District 15, several pro-LGBT candidates—Peggy Babcock, James Ekeberg and Gerald Chapman—lost their bids to a Republican-backed slate.

Mora further said that he's confident that young people might be able to help lead the way on the issue of trans rights.

"What I see all over the country is young trans people, young gender-expansive people, and non-trans kids that are speaking about this with tremendous eloquence," he said. "They move on and the rest of us are in some ways catching up. Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council are doing the same things to young trans people and trans adults that they did to gay, lesbian and bisexual people 30 years ago. They're taking advantage of the fact that not as many folks know they know a trans person. … It's not an issue until adults become involved."


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