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Watch: Gender Nonconforming Teen's Message to DeVos Takes Form of Trans Flag

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday May 30, 2018
Student Torin Hodgman, left, with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right.
Student Torin Hodgman, left, with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right.  (Source:YouTube Still via MLive)

When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos paid a visit to a Michigan middle school, she encountered an example of a kind of student her office doesn't seem to want to stick up for.

Newsweek reported that an eighth grade gender queer student named Torin Hodgman dressed for the occasion of DeVos' visit to Grand Rapids Public Museum School by wearing a trans flag as a cape.

Michigan news site MLive reported that Hodgman, 14, was prepared to query DeVos about the issue of trans students and others whose gender identity might not hew to binary preconceptions. School is not always a safe environment for LGBTQ youths; a 2017 report from advocacy organization GLSEN detailed the stress and emotional trauma that trans and gender nonconforming students endure under trans-unfriendly school policies and state laws. The report noted that "75% of transgender students felt unsafe at school because of their gender expression."

Under DeVos, what protections trans and gender nonconforming students had enjoyed during the Obama years have evaporated.

Hodgman, who goes by the pronoun "they" and "them," did not have a chance to question DeVos, MLive reported. Still, "Hodgman is hopeful [DeVos] recognized the flag - and what it stood for - and that she realizes that transgender students are a real presence in America's schools," the MLive article said.

"Public schools are a place for all children," Hodgman told the news outlet.

Watch MLive's video of the encounter below.


Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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