She is hardly eight years old and she has left school. She was being bullied by other students, so much so that she started hating herself. She thought of harming herself and even mentioned killing herself. Unconcerned about the emotional distress it would cause her, the private school she was studying in, refused to accommodate her.
Her crime? She is a transgender.
Nikki Shah Brar’s story is an eye-opener and compels us to think again about gender roles and why we need to stop stereotyping people. It is not just Nikki who is suffering, there are kids across the globe who have even more terrible stories to narrate. Society has forced them to undergo acute mental and emotional trauma at a tender age. They are made to suffer inhumane social ostracization for no fault of theirs. Do transgender kids have no right to develop like other kids? Why can’t our society make space for them? When will we stop stereotyping people? Nikki’s story raises so many questions. We need to ask if it is Nikki’s fault that she has identified as a girl since a young age. Is it the young child’s fault that boys’ clothing feels like a prison to her.
Nikki’s story differs from that of others in that her parents, instead of hiding her gender-identity, stood by her boldly. Her mother, Priya Shah says, “This is not a trend, it’s not a fad, it’s not a phase . . . This is who she is at her very core, and if you can’t learn and grow at school, then you can’t be who you are. We stand with Nikki and we want to do our small part to make sure other transgender kids don’t have the same trauma.”
Thus, instead of giving way to mounting social pressure and yielding to the demand of the school that Nikki should continue to wear a boy’s uniform and use the boy’s restroom, Nikki’s parents decided to fight for their child’s right and sue the private school for discrimination. When asked, her parents said, “We would not have done it if she didn’t support it. . . This was a family decision. We thought we had to stand up for our child who was standing up for who she was. This is not something we do lightly.”
They sought legal advice and filed a suit against the school for failing to accommodate Nikki and for the reckless disregard for the emotional distress it would cause her. They accused the school of engaging in the intentional infliction of emotional distress in violation of California common law. Although the school has tried to defend itself by claiming that it needed time to respond and was seeking the advice of an outside consultant before allowing the student’s transition, it is clear that sensitivity and concern for the child were lacking.
However, it is not only the school, but also the entire Trump administration that has turned its back on the question of the discrimination of the transgender community. The fight for Nikki’s rights, therefore, does not remain merely the fight for an individual’s rights but assumes colossal dimensions.
As the debate rages on, justice is awaiting 8-year-old Nikki, whose future is still undecided.