N. Texas Transgender Teen Worries About State Bathroom Bill

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GARLAND (CBS11) – Fifteen-year-old Alex Pettigrew, who is transitioning to a boy, says he’s not looking for trouble while using the bathroom.

“What we want to do is just pee in peace,” said Pettigrew. “We’re not harmful. We’re not dangerous. We’re not criminals. We’re just human beings.”

But he worries trouble may find him if Texas lawmakers pass a bill regulating bathroom use for transgender students. “This is putting my rights and somebody else’s rights in danger.”

Pettigrew praises a directive from President Barack Obama last May telling school districts they had to allow transgender students use bathrooms that matched their gender identity.

A federal judge blocked that directive from taking effect.

Pettigrew criticizes President Donald Trump’s decision Wednesday to rescind the Obama administrative directive. “It was a horrible decision. It was put in place to protect trans students and allow us to use the restroom of our identity and that was such an important thing because individual states would be able to easily take this away.”

Republicans in the Texas Senate, led by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, have proposed Senate Bill 6, a measure that would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools and universities, and government buildings related to their biological sex.

“What he’s doing is just a horrible thing,” said Pettigrew. “He’s denying trans people the right to simply exist in a public space. I’m not here to sexually assault others. I’m not here to cause other people harm. I’m simply trying to use the restroom.”

The sophomore credits the principal and staff at Garland High School for being very accommodating.

For most of his freshman year, he had to use the bathroom in the nurse’s office, but says after meeting with the principal late last school year, he was allowed to use the men’s room. “I’ve never had an issue since doing this. No one has said anything.”

But he must take a special phys-ed class because he is not allowed to use the men’s locker room.

“When asked if he can understand how some other people may feel if they saw him in the locker room,” Pettigrew said. “Yes, some people might be shocked to see a trans person among them, especially in a large group situation when you’re getting undressed. I’m just one of the guys I guess.”

A Garland ISD spokeswoman says the principal believes Pettigrew’s case is going well.

In Dallas Thursday, CBS11 asked the Lt. Governor about the teen’s situation.

“For this particular student, this school district is apparently already handling it, and again, we’ve never had an issue about this,” said Patrick.

Patrick blamed the Obama administration for going too far, which is why he says he is backing Senate Bill 6.

He says it will protect students’ privacy.

“The policy will say that no school district can pass a policy that says that you use a bathroom or a shower or a locker room opposite your birth certificate, but make accommodations for those who want an alternative,” said Patrick.

The bill would also pre-empt local non-discrimination ordinances that allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.

Pettigrew is still concerned that if Senate Bill 6 becomes law, the district will be forced to change the accommodations it’s made for him.

Pettigrew says he knew since he was a young child he didn’t feel right. “I was not a girl and I never really felt like one. In my heart, I knew I was a boy.”

So in middle school he told his parents he wanted to transition to a boy.

He says he feels more comfortable using the men’s room than the lady’s room because of his experiences before he made the transition. “I would get constant comments saying are you sure you should be in here? This is the woman’s restroom, and I would say yes, I know, and I explain that I was a girl.”

Pettigrew says he wouldn’t feel comfortable in the lady’s room now. “I’m over 6 feet tall. I’m very large, very masculine appearing. I’d automatically be seen as a threat.”

On Thursday afternoon, Pettigrew got his first testosterone shot, and he’s hoping to change his gender markers, and have surgery later. “I’m very excited, it’s just one of many steps to take in this process and I know it’s going to do a lot for me.”

He says he hasn’t been harassed at school.

While he’s active in activities on campus, he says only a few friends know his story.

He realizes more people will know about him now. “There’s always the fear that the wrong people are going to find out, and things could end badly.”

If that happens, Pettigrew says he has a supportive network of family and friends, and that it’s important for him to speak up. “I need to let other trans people know you can be safe, you can be successful, you can live your life and be free. I’m comfortable with who I am and I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.”

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