by Liam Klenk
This article is in response to the Huff Post Young Voices article from Oct 15, 2016: ‘Transgender Schoolgirl Lily Madigan Hires Solicitor After School Threatened To Suspend Her For Wearing Female Clothes’
Just after reading the Huff Post Young Voices article about Lily Madigan being threatened with suspension from St Simon Stock Catholic School in Maidstone, Kent, I happened upon another recent news article by IFL Science about the new “Turing Law” being passed in the UK. This law is pardoning all gay men who had once been convicted of gross indecency. In the introduction to his article, journalist Ben Taub writes, “When people comment and demand we remain unpolitical, I think of Alan Turing. I think of a brilliant man who was persecuted simply for who he loved. I think of all the women, people of colour, and LGBT people who are unable to achieve their full potential for no good reason. So no. We won’t be quiet. We won’t accept this. Imagine where humanity would be today if no one had ever been held back because of their sex, race, religion or orientation.”
While we seem to have taken another step forward towards equality and acceptance, we, at the same time, in the same country, take steps backwards towards persecution and unkindness as well.
Lily Madigan, 18-year old schoolgirl in Kent knows who she is. Gender dysphoria is not a joke. I was struggling with it for many years until I finally transitioned from Stefanie to Liam when I was 23 years old. A weight as unbearably heavy as the Himalayan mountain range resting on my shoulders finally, amazingly, gave way to the weight of a feather the moment I took steps towards letting myself be the real me.
We transgender people don’t make these things up. It’s not a mood. It’s not a phase. We are not having a case of mental indigestion. We are, in all seriousness, not at home in our own bodies. We were born like this. Souls stranded in a wrongly-gendered physical shell. It simply happened, luck of the draw, through no fault of our own.
Once we understand who we truly are, all we want is to feel complete and be allowed to come home to ourselves.
Lily bravely came to school wearing the clothes of the gender she identifies with. It’s important to her to be seen and accepted as who she truly is. According to Huff Post Young Voices, “Lily Madigan was told she would be regarded as a boy when she was at school, something that left her in ‘a deep depression’.” Instead of seeing her great potential, her courage and integrity, Lily’s school gave her the message that they will only be willing to give her an education if she lives her life as who they want her to be instead of supporting her to be her true self.
Maybe it is difficult to understand how it can feel to be trapped in your own body. In my book Paralian – Not Just Transgender, I am trying to describe this profound forlornness: “As a child, I had instinctively known who I was but hadn’t been able to articulate that awareness. Over the years, the hormonal changes of my body, as well as the gender stereotypes reinforced all around me, had clouded my judgment and confused me. Longing to fit in, I had lost myself in stages as my gender identity became more and more obscured. It was as if I had been clutching my useless passport in hand while stranded in an increasingly isolated and ruined airport building. Windows had been boarded up. The electricity had failed step-by-step, leaving me in deepening darkness. But I had never stopped searching for exits, even while dodging the debris falling onto me from crumbling ceilings.”
Let me come back to Ben Taub, whom I quoted earlier: “I think of all the women, people of colour, and LGBT people who are unable to achieve their full potential for no good reason (…) Imagine where humanity would be today if no one had ever been held back because of their sex, race, religion or orientation.”
Let’s imagine this for just a few moments. And let’s understand that here we are yet again, holding someone back, barring them from personal growth and happiness, because they don’t fit into what some school officials deem to be “normal” and “decent”.
The article about 18-year old Lily Madigan mentions that she is an A-level student. But even if she were barely able to talk, read, or write, she should still have the right to be herself. No one should be denied this most basic of all human rights. And let’s not forget to mention: the school’s officials’ ignoring the 2010 Equality Act is – by definition – an unlawful act. Thankfully, Lily’s fellow students have voiced their open support for her. Huff Post Young Voices quotes one student saying, “Stocky says we ‘treat everyone as a family’ but their rules prove that they’re far from it. The top concern should be the welfare of their students and making Stocky a happy place to study. Trans students deserve better from this school.”
I couldn’t agree more and urge the St Simon Stock Catholic School to rethink their approach towards their students.
Dear St. Simon’s staff, do you really want to label and reduce young individuals to what you believe them to be? Or don’t you rather want to aim to understand who they really are? Do you want to destroy a brave mind like Lily Madigan’s by forcing her to subject herself to long out-of-date societal standards?
The world isn’t even changing. It’s always been a diverse planet shimmering in all colours of the rainbow. We’re just taking a while to catch on.
On this note: Dear Lily, keep on standing up for who you are and what you believe in. You’re not alone!
About the author
Liam Klenk is the author of Paralian: Not Just Transgender (Ylra Publishing and Matador, £11.99 paperback, £6.49 eBook). Paralian, Liam’s autobiography, has been nominated for The People’s Book Prize. The public can vote online before the end of November. Liam lives in Switzerland but is a citizen of the world and travels regularly.