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Many Stripes, One Tiger: Local support surges for transgender students in bathroom debate

What began as a social media call out to support a Walnut Springs Elementary transgender student has grown into a movement aiming to kill Senate Bill (SB) 6, or the so-called “bathroom bill,” within the Texas Legislature.

While support continues to pour in for “Many Stripes, One Tiger,” (MSOT) Andy Hutton, who is one of the main creators of the group, said he wasn’t surprised at the level of support toward the student and her cause. 

“We will rally around kids based on who they are. This is a supportive community and a fantastic place to live,” Hutton said. “I feel it’s a place where people care about kids and support them … I wasn’t surprised at people willing to stand for a third grader and allow her to be who she is.”

MSOT’s origins began in late September when Hutton and other parents rallied to oppose Texas Values, a faith-based conservative lobbyist group that joined parents who complained about the district’s accommodations for the student.

Hutton said he initially believed the rumblings were from upset parents. He realized it was a larger issue when he discovered Texas Values was planning to use their arguments during a September 2016 DSISD board meeting as a springboard for possible legislation.

“A group of us tried to get some people to organize to serve as a counter-weight at the board meeting,” Hutton said. He added the group decided to “speak our mind and our hearts” if the political group “caused trouble.”

He began the group on Facebook, and within a few days, the group quickly swelled to over 200 likes. The group, he said, regularly attended school board meetings each month since September.

Hutton said he and others were bothered by murmurs from Texas Values that the student was a safety risk. Hutton said the premise was “offensive to me and others” as many in the community know the student, whom he said has been going through the transition “for many years.”

“To know this child, she is not a safety risk. People who have no idea who she is, she’s a kid who likes dancing to Taylor Swift and art and hanging out with her friends, ” Hutton said.

In addition, Hutton said his concerns extended to “misstatements” in Texas Values’ press releases. He said Texas Values seems to “tell this story of this rogue” school district enacting a “policy change that had been swept under the rug and hidden from parents.”

In September, DSISD said in a statement bathroom accommodation for all students is done on a case-by-case basis. Federal laws also prevent the district from disclosing health-related information.

Hutton said he was “disappointed” that State Rep. Jason Issac stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Texas Values in support of the bathroom bill.

Isaac said his support of the bill came from what he believes are safety issues.

“We should not be allowing men to use multi-stalled restrooms with women and we shouldn’t be allowing women to use multi-stalled restrooms with men,” Isaac said. “I don’t want to put my boys in a bathroom with a female.”

Isaac also cited transparency issues and feels that a “lot of people are arguing for less transparency, which boggles my mind.”

He added that he has joined the Texas Conservative Coalition, which has submitted a letter to President Donald Trump to rescind a letter from Barack Obama that amends Title IX to allow for transgender people to use the bathroom they identify with.

“They’re asking Trump to rescind the letter, which we believe would make the entire problem go away,” Isaac said.

But frustration is now rising with the MSOT group as they prepare to oppose SB6.

Robyn Jones, a Dripping Springs High freshman and a MSOT supporter, said she was surpised by the outpouring of support for the student, but added people shouldn’t be discriminated against based on their race or gender.

Dripping Springs resident Steve Kling, who also supports MSOT, said he believed people should “treat others the way they should be treated.”

“There is a whole lot of fear and ignorance taking over right now,” Kling said. He added that people are “making bad decisions” and focusing fears on “people and groups of people that are not the danger.”

Claire Bow, who is a transgender woman and a MSOT supporter, sympathized with the student, as she recalled the challenges of growing up as a transgender person.

She also said the transgender discussion isn’t a partisan issue. But she also fears the bathroom bill could have ramifications for Texas businesses and tourism if it passes.

“I think people want to turn this into a culture war; it’s not, it’s about a kid going to school,” Bow said. “An eight-year-old doesn’t know what culture wars are. She’s living her life.”

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