(Photo by Sara D. Davis/Stringer via Getty Images)
OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 6:30 PM – Friday, March 10, 2023
A 17-year-old transgender student named Niko asked Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin about his policy on gender identity in the state’s public schools in a townhall meeting.
The Thursday meeting was joined by Virginia voters and mainly dealt with topics such as education, student mental health, and school safety.
Youngkin (R-VA.) called on Niko to ask a question and was met with an unexpected reaction from the high school student.
Niko asked Youngkin about his perspective on different gender identities and how he feels regarding transgender students using their preferred bathrooms and joining certain sports teams.
Youngkin has been accused by many Democrats and by the LGBTQ+ community of upholding anti-trans policies that endanger transgenders’ quality of life.
They also claim that he has rolled back protections for trans students.
Last fall, Youngkin implemented a series of restraining guidelines to all Virginia schools regarding their transgender students under the explanation that he felt it was important to accommodate all students and not just any one specific group.
Some of these new guidelines also inferred that transgender students would now have much more difficulty changing their name and gender presentation at school.
Niko noted that they identified as a transgender man and chose to press Youngkin on his policies and proposals that would limit trans students’ participation in school sports and their usage of restrooms.
“Your transgender policies require students play on the sports teams and use the restrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth… Look at me, I am a transgender man. Do you think the girls in my high school would feel comfortable sharing a restroom with me?” asked Niko.
Youngkin then went on a tangent about his belief in strengthening parent-child relationships and how important it is to be open and honest with your guardians so that you can make smart decisions in life.
“I believe first, when parents are engaged with their children, you can make good decisions together… I also think there are lots of students involved in this decision,” Youngkin answered.
Niko looked puzzled as if the governor’s response did not really answer their question and came off as vague and dismissive.
Youngkin then went on to discuss the need for more school plumbing infrastructure, including gender-neutral restrooms so that people can choose to use the restroom of their choice.
“That’s why I have said many, many times, we just need extra bathrooms in schools… We need gender-neutral bathrooms so people can use the bathrooms that they, in fact, are comfortable with,” Youngkin said.
He then explained how his policy on sports is very clear and non-contentious, supporting progress made for “women in sports.”
“Again, I think these are very difficult discussions and I am very, very glad to see you and your dad here together,” explained Youngkin.
Both Niko and their father looked disappointed by Youngkin’s response and many are now criticizing the Virginia governor for seemingly avoiding the student’s question.
This public discussion also comes at a time when several transgender students in Oklahoma are suing the state over similar policies because they do not want to be forced to use changing rooms or restrooms designated to their assigned sex at birth, and they have also expressed how they do not want to use single-occupancy changing rooms or restrooms either.
Youngkin ultimately doubled down on several of his own education policies that are seen as controversial by some, while also expressing his disdain for “inherently divisive concepts, including critical race theory,” which is an academic structure that scrutinizes how racism has influenced both institutions and daily life.
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