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My middle school silenced my free speech T-shirts about 'two genders.' I'm fighting back

OpinionMy middle school silenced my free speech T-shirts about 'two genders.' I'm fighting back

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My parents have always taught me to think for myself. My dad often makes comments and then questions me to see if I think they are true. He’ll ask, “Is that right?” or “Do you think that’s true?” He has done this since I was very little. He likes for me to come to my own conclusions.

It’s natural for our family to have those conversations where we share our different thoughts and views. Shouldn’t that be natural and encouraged at school, too?

But at my school, it’s very clear what the staff and administration want us to believe, even about controversial political issues. They don’t seem to want to hear different opinions. Shouldn’t they encourage us to have conversations and teach us how to discuss these ideas while respecting each other’s views? Instead, they just want us to think a certain way and go along with their point of view.

7TH-GRADE STUDENT FIGHTS BACK AFTER SCHOOL TOLD HIM TO CHANGE HIS ‘THERE ARE ONLY TWO GENDERS’ T-SHIRT

I’m not sure why they act as though speaking up causes any trouble. Everyone seems worried that if somebody says what they think, somebody else is going to get upset.

I didn’t go around pushing my opinion on anyone. All I did was wear a shirt. But even that was enough to upset school officials.

a photo of Liam Morrison

Liam Morrison wore a shirt to school on May 5 that said “There are censored genders.”  ((Morrison family))

There is a lot of talk about sex and gender at my school. The administration, teachers, and other students all talk about it. They put up pride flags and posters. The main idea the school promotes is that feelings, not biology, are what make someone a “boy” or “girl.” They also say there are an unlimited number of possible “gender identities,” and that whole idea can’t be questioned.

We’ve had lots of conversations about this stuff at home. I’ve given it some thought on my own, too. I don’t think it makes any sense at all. I think it is confusing to a lot of kids.

I didn’t go around pushing my opinion on anyone. All I did was wear a shirt. But even that was enough to upset school officials.

I was talking to my dad about it one night, and he said it would be OK to share my opinion on the topic. We looked online and found a shirt that said exactly what I was thinking.

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People wear shirts that say all kinds of things at school. One kid wore a shirt that said, “He, she, they, it’s all okay” The one I wore said, “There are only two genders.” 

That’s it. 

I see lots of messages at school that I don’t agree with. But I don’t try to silence others. We should all have a right to share our opinions.

It wasn’t mean or rude. It didn’t say anything bad about people who disagree. I just expressed my opinion. And from what I could tell, the whole time I wore it, the shirt didn’t bother anybody.

But I was pulled out of first-period class by the acting principal. She took me into an office and told me I would have to change my shirt before I could go back to class.

I didn’t want to miss any classes, but I didn’t think I should have to change my shirt. She called my dad, and he agreed with me, so he came and picked me up. When he talked with administrators, they said what I did was against school rules. The rules say we can’t wear anything “that the administration determines to be unacceptable to our community standards.”

So, I changed the message on my shirt to read, “There are censored genders.”

They made me take that one off, too.

Now, my family is suing the school for violating my right to speak freely. Our Constitution says they can’t do that. Students have free speech rights, too.

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I spoke at a school committee meeting a couple of weeks after wearing the first shirt. I asked how a shirt could make someone feel “unsafe.” I asked what made a chance of hurt feelings more important than anyone’s right to share their point of view. If that’s the rule, then anyone could silence anyone else just by saying, “I’m offended.”

I don’t want that to be the rule. I see lots of messages at school that I don’t agree with. But I don’t try to silence others. We should all have a right to share our opinions.

Since we filed a lawsuit through our attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom—a case the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit heard on Feb. 8—I’ve done a lot of interviews. I’ve even been on TV a few times. 

I’ve received letters from people around the country, thanking me and encouraging me to continue to speak up. It’s nice, but what’s even better is the kids at school who have come up to me to say they agree with me. Some kids have even worn their own shirts—but they’ve been silenced, too.

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I know a lot of people are afraid to speak up. We shouldn’t be afraid—not to think or speak our opinions. Saying something different from what others might say shouldn’t be treated as wrong.

That’s what makes America great. We are free to have a mind of our own.

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