Ashley Wade is a fiercely protective mother who lives with her children in Memphis and works in high-end retail. She considers herself lucky to work for a company with policies that affirm protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; she just wishes the same was true at her daughter Luci’s school.
Luci is a transgender girl, who around the age of three started asking Ashley, “Why do you think I’m a boy? I’m a girl.” When Luci began kindergarten, she presented as a boy; halfway through the year Ashley had a conference with the principal, saying that Luci would begin to present as a girl.
“They promised there wouldn’t be a problem – that she would be looked after and not bullied,” Ashley said. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Luci’s teacher repeatedly referred to her by her deadname – her previous name prior to transition – and refused to use Luci’s correct she/her/hers pronouns. After a particularly traumatic bullying incident, Luci did not want to go to school any more. Ashley did the only thing she knew how: She protected her child.
Ashley enrolled Luci in a new school, where she was accepted immediately. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Luci only got to attend school for about a week before schools across the state were closed. Still, when it is safe to return to school, Ashley wants them to make even more progress and allow Luci to use the girls’ room instead of a private bathroom, which was the case before the school’s closure.
“They say they’re doing it to protect her, which I can understand,” Ashley said. “But it’s still frustrating.” After all, singling out any student for different treatment because of their gender is the very definition of discrimination.
Tennessee lawmakers have attempted to introduce several pieces of anti-transgender legislation over the past several years. These include bills that would prevent transgender people from receiving caring and competent medical care, as well as one that would essentially ban them from playing high-school sports.
“We don’t really talk about things like legislation with Luci,” Ashley said. “But it is definitely a concern for her future. Unfortunately, there is still ignorance out there, and the threat of harm. But Luci knows who she is, and she is confident. I want to make things better for future generations. We’ve got to do the hard work now so that the future will be better for everyone.”