A transgender girl in South Dakota pretended to have a broken arm in order to justify using the nurse’s bathroom at her elementary school.
The school, in Vermillion, S.D, had barred her from using the girls’ bathroom, according to her father, instead offering the nurse’s bathroom as a compromise.
Mike Phelan told Xtra Magazine that his daughter didn’t want to tell friends why she was forced to use the nurse’s bathroom, which is on the other side of school, and would instead pretend that her arm was “really hurting her” to try and deflect questions from students who saw her in the corridors.
But Phelan said that his daughter’s frequent trips to the nurse’s office instead lead some of her friends to worry about her health.
“Every time she went to the bathroom, she told me that her friends asked if she had cancer,” Phelan said. “That’s the only reason they could come up with that she would have to go to the nurse so often. They were really worried about her.”
Speaking to PinkNews, Phelan said his daughter would frequently dehydrate herself to avoid using the toilet.
“She wouldn’t drink very much at school throughout the day so that she wouldn’t have to use the bathroom,” he said, “and then she’d be cranky and dehydrated when I picked her up.”
Phelan said his daughter has known her gender identity since she was four years old, when she told her parents she had “a girl’s heart.”
“You don’t say no to that,” Phelan said. “You don’t say you’re wrong about who you are as a person.”
Phelan’s daughter endured being excluded to a separate bathroom for more than a year until her school district finally adopted a trans-inclusive bathroom policy in November 2021 — the first such policy in South Dakota.
However, the Phelans’ victory was short-lived, with Republicans advancing an anti-transgender bathroom bill in January that would have banned Phelan’s daughter from female restrooms statewide.
Phelan told PinkNews that restricting his daughter to a separate bathroom “sounds like a reasonable compromise, but it’s just another way of making a small handful of kids different.”
He called the Republican-backed bathroom ban “ridiculous,” placing the blame on a “handful of people” intent on passing legislation to “hurt trans kids.”
Lawmakers ultimately opted to kill the ban earlier this month, with one state senator saying decisions over bathroom access should be left to school boards.
Phelan also criticized South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who has led efforts to ban transgender athletes from competing in sports according to their gender identity. Noem signed the ban into law earlier this month.
“To use the already very vulnerable population for political gain, especially for personal political gain in that way, is just disgusting,” Phelan said.
He added that Republicans were sending the message that transgender people “don’t belong, we don’t want you here.”
His daughter has sporting aspirations of her own, Phelan told PinkNews.
“It is something that’s very much in her mind that she wants to do in the future,” he said, “and I really hope that we can get this defeated through one mechanism or another, whether it’s a federal action or having to sue and overturn laws.”
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