For the past two months, the Pacific Justice Institute, a self-described "Christian" organization headquartered in Sacramento, has engaged in targeted attacks on a transgender 16-year-old in Florence, Colo., in an attempt to undermine support for a new California law that guarantees equal access to facilities and sports teams for trans students. That law is currently under threat of repeal through a ballot initiative organized by the institute and the anti-LGBT group National Organization for Marriage, among others.
The harassment, which revolves around the transgender girl's use of the girls' bathroom at Florence High School, includes the institute repeatedly disseminating false claims that the trans student was sexually harassing cisgender (nontrans) students in the bathroom. Multiple conservative media outlets picked up the story, and some unscrupulous reporters published the minor child's name. When the school superintendent confirmed that no such harassment took place, the institute modified its talking points, claiming that the trans student's mere presence in the bathroom was "inherently harassing." Earlier this month, Pacific Justice Institute released a video interviewing some of those cisgender teens and their parents, tearfully claiming that the girls are scared to use the bathroom because they know the trans student "doesn't have the same parts" as they do.
Trans bloggers and activists Cristan Williams — who has led the way in accurately reporting and investigating this story — and Autumn Sandeen held a demonstration Tuesday outside the institute's office on the Trinity Law School campus in Santa Ana, Calif. The date happened to be just one day before the international Transgender Day of Remembrance, a worldwide vigil that honors and mourns those individuals killed due to transphobic bias and anti-trans violence.
In her summary report from Tuesday's demonstration, Williams notes that the activists targeted Trinity Law School because it contains an office where the Pacific Justice Institute's senior counsel, Michael Peffer, works as a representative of the institute and the school's Christian legal aid office.
"Our action at PJI’s SoCal office was two-fold," explains Williams in the blog post at TransAdvocate. "1.) Tell them that we want them to stop bullying and harassing Jane Doe, the transgender youth who attends Florence High School in Florence, Colorado, because their bulling and harassing brought her to the brink of suicide, and 2.) ask them to have Michael Peffer (or any other representative at PJI) come out and tell the two trans youth in the group of ten community participants that they are bullies, and that they are “inherently harassing” to other teens in restrooms they use at their public high school."
Unsurprisingly, no one associated with the institute was willing to speak with the demonstrators. But that didn't stop the group — including at least two trans youth and a professor who was recently dismissed from nearby Azusa Pacific University after coming out as transgender — from making its message heard outside the campus.
"The bullying of this 16-year-old girl, who has been bullied by people allegedly as Christians, claiming that her going to the bathroom is in itself a 'nightmare scenario,' this offends me as a Christian," said Adam Ackley, an ordained minister, parent, and transgender man who was asked to leave Christian college Azusa Pacific University after coming out as trans. "It outrages me and concerns me as a parent, and I just need to stand alongside my transgender brothers and sisters against the violence in words and bullying of people who call themselves Christians and attack children."
Watch a video from the demonstration below, and see more photos and videos at TransAdvocate.