The Waits’ Story
Despite recent legal victories that affirm transgender and non-binary students’ rights in Minnesota schools, transgender young people and their families are still facing discrimination from anti-trans lawmakers and even bullying and harassment from their neighbors.
In Hastings, Minnesota, parents angry about a school mask requirement enforced by the Hastings Public School Board used a Facebook parents’ group to publicly “out” the 8-year-old transgender child of Kelsey Waits, the town’s school board chair — weaponizing the child’s identity in a dangerous, retributive political attack.
The same parents were also opposed to the efforts of Kelsey and the Hastings School Board to make schools safer for LGBTQ+ students.
The Waits’ child, Kit (who uses they/them pronouns), transitioned at age 4 and was not previously out as transgender in their small, conservative Hastings community.
Kelsey and her husband Chris called Gender Justice for help, because they know our track record of standing up for transgender youth who face bullying and discrimination.
Gender Justice senior staff attorney Christy Hall sent a letter demanding that the Facebook group’s administrators remove the posts about Kit. And when the Waits decided to share their story, we had their back every step of the way.
What the Waits are doing is incredibly brave.
By telling their family’s story, the Waits are showing a national audience what’s at stake when adults use transgender children as pawns in a struggle for political power. And they’re exposing the role gender oppression plays in the backlash against progressive gains happening right now on school boards across the country.
As the Waits’ story shows, the politicization of transgender young people’s identities has real, devastating consequences for children and their families. We see this pattern all over the country: In a year that saw a record number of anti-trans bills proposed and passed in state legislatures, we also saw unprecedented levels of violence against trans and non-binary people.
Getting to know the Waits family has deepened our conviction that fighting for transgender and non-binary youth in the courts and in the Minnesota legislature is not enough to counter the real threats young people and their families are facing.
Recent legal victories for transgender students have changed state law to affirm the rights of transgender students. Those wins give young people and their families a powerful tool to fight back against discrimination. But that hasn’t stopped anti-trans lawmakers from promising to introduce new legislation targeting transgender student athletes in the upcoming session. And it hasn’t stopped the Waits from being targeted for harassment in their community.
To fully remove the barriers that keep transgender and non-binary youth from achieving equity, we’re boosting our work to change the narrative in our communities so that trans and non-binary students are humanized and celebrated, not stigmatized and erased.