After news broke Monday about a trangender senior at St. Pius X Catholic High School in New Mexico being told he must wear a female's white cap and gown to graduate, instead of the black robe and hat designated for male graduates, the story quickly caught the attention of the school's most famous alumnus: Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
"I am writing to ask you to do the right thing and let all your students graduate with dignity," Ferguson wrote on Facebook Tuesday. "Do not force someone to identify them self as someone they are not! It is as ridiculous as having a priest conduct mass in a nuns habit! Gender identification goes way beyond a check mark on a birth certificate. ... I know St. Pius X has changed a lot since I graduated in '94. I['m] proud of the changes and strides you have made but this is not a time to hold to a rule book. Continue to grow and accept ALL of your students."
As a gay former high school student in a Catholic school, Ferguson can relate to 18-year-old Damien Garcia's victimization. Garcia was assigned female at birth, but identifies as male, legally changed his name last year, and is recognized as male by his family, friends, and teachers. But Garcia is not alone in his outrage. Yesterday, the school saw a stream of protesters, including Garcia's friends and family, holding signs opposing the school's decision. Garcia was protesting side by side with his friends and relatives, holding a sign that read, "I'm a Real Boy."
Garcia's supporters launched a petition calling on the school to allow Garcia to wear gender-appropriate graduate attire, which now has more than 27,000 signatures. Supporters plan to deliver the petition to principal Barbara Rothweiler in hopes that she will allow Garcia to wear what's rightly his.
The school superintendent claims that St. Pius X determines graduation dress code by the gender listed on a student's birth certificate. Even though Garcia legally changed his name on his birth certificate last year, New Mexico also requires a medical affidavit before amending gender on a birth certificate.
Out actor and Modern Family star Ferguson may have taken the issue to a much higher level, bringing attention to the frequent and persistent harassment and discrimination to which transgender youth are subjected.
Garcia told Albuquerque's KRQE, "I would rather not walk than to embarass myself by wearing a female robe."Garcia's graduation is Wednesday.