Earlier this month, 12-year-old Hernando Middle School student Randi Foster said she was beaten by a group of classmates because her name sounds like a boy name.
Ironically, the attackers were leaving a Fellowship of Christian Students meeting. Foster told WREG, "They started talking about me like I was a man. That I shouldn't be in this world. And my name was a boy name." She said she was kicked in the ribs and leg, hit in the face, sat on, and thrown into a cafeteria table. DeSoto County Schools released a statement that "fighting is not tolerated and that disciplinary action will be taken to the fullest extent of the law." You can watch the video at the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition website.
Here's the thing — Foster was abused because her name sounds like a boy name. We don't know if Foster is gay or straight, but regardless, she was beaten because her classmates perceived that she could be gay because of the name her parents gave her. That's a perfect example of "gender expression."
The Memphis City Council is considering an ordinance that would protect city workers based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. At council committee meetings, some people on the opposition have expressed concern over the "identity or expression" part. But what they must not realize is "gender expression" can be something beyond one's control — the sound of your name, your tone of voice, your stature. It could even apply to a heavy guy with man boobs.
The non-discrimination ordinance opposition really ought to take a look at Randi's story. Unlike Randi's "Christian" peers, one would hope that the religious-based groups opposing the ordinance would show a little more respect for people who cannot control who they are or what they look like.
By the way, the second reading for the city's proposed employment non-discrimination ordinance is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 23rd.