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When Conservatives Threatened a Wisconsin School For Reading a Book About a Trans Girl, the Town Responded With Compassion

When Conservatives Threatened a Wisconsin School For Reading a Book About a Trans Girl, the Town Responded With Compassion

I am Jazz childrens book

Find out how this Wisconsin school board rejected Liberty Counsel's fearmongering

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Last week, Liberty Counsel threatened a lawsuit against the Mount Horeb, Wisc., school district for its plan to read I Am Jazz, a book by and about a transgender girl. The anti-LGBTQ group aimed to shut down efforts to foster compassion and tolerance for a local 6-year-old trans first-grader. Little did they know, their lawsuit would actually create compassion and foster understanding. This week, Wisconsin school has countered the criticism by unanimously passing nondiscrimination protections for its transgender students this week.

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"Let the word go forth here and now that this board will stand united and we will not be intimidated, and we will teach tolerance and will be accepting to everyone," school board member Peter Strube said after Monday's meeting, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

As Johanna Eager, director of the Human Rights Campaign's Welcoming Schools program, writes for Advocate.com:

"By the time I arrived in Mount Horeb last Wednesday morning to support the community, the flames were already burning bright. I met up at Sjolinds coffee shop with Amy Lyle, mother of two students at the school -- neither transgender -- who was organizing a public reading of I Am Jazz at the town's public library that night. Upset that the local elementary school, under pressure from Liberty Counsel, had canceled its reading, Amy simply scheduled one of her own. She was hoping that a few families with their children would share the evening with her as she read I Am Jazz."

Later, Jessica Herthel, coauthor of I Am Jazz, flew in from California to participate in the reading. The reading eventually attracted over 600 community members (which had been moved to a larger space to accommodate the crowds). "When the chairs ran out and the standing room in the back was four and five people deep," Eager writes, "the kids instinctively gathered and sat cross-legged in front."

"The children quieted as Jessica began to read and all eyes were on the book. I Am Jazz shares the story of a transgender child in a way that makes sense to young kids -- and to adults as well. I could see the 'What's all of the fuss about?' looks on the children's faces as they learned that some children are born and told they are a boy, but know they are really a girl in their heart, and that some children are born and told they are a girl, but know they are really a boy in their heart. I noticed parents breathe a collective sigh of relief as Jessica spoke beautifully about how adults can talk, in very simple terms, with children about differences, including what it means to be transgender."

Eager says that it was a room that was filled with love and compassion, not fear or anger. "The people of Mount Horeb chose to come out in force to demonstrate that, in their town, love and acceptance will always win the day. Everyone, including me, learned something that amazing night -- about strength, compassion, and rejecting fear in favor of supporting all of their children and all members of their larger community."

Read the full essay here.

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