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Family urges Buncombe County to adopt policy for transgender students

Six-year-old Emma's mom said she had such a bad experience in kindergarten that she won't be returning to the same school this fall. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Emma is a shy 6-year-old at first, but she has no problem speaking up once she's comfortable.

"As soon as she had a chance and a voice to say, 'I'm not a boy,' that's what she would do. She would correct you in a minute," Emma's mom Amy said.

Amy said her daughter, who was born male, began showing signs of being transgender when she was about 4, before she even started school.

Amy led a rally before the Buncombe County Board of Education met Thursday evening, pleading for a transgender policy in the district's schools.

"At the beginning of the school year, we were calling her Colton. That was right before when she said, 'I want to be called Emma,'" Amy said.

The Glen Arden kindergartener spoke up, but wasn't heard by her teachers.

But when Emma wanted to use the girl's bathroom, some teachers wouldn't allow it.

'She went to gym one time, and they gave her the choice of boys bathroom or nothing. She was wearing a dress that day, and she chose to urinate on herself," Amy said.

Administrators told Emma's mom the gym teacher didn't know. Amy forgave them and was learning along with them.

"I didn't know that you could know who you are at such a young age. I mean, I don't even remember that time for myself. But for her to be so adamant and secure in who she is and fight for who she is," Amy said.

Emma fought the whole school year, urinating on herself multiple times, crying before going to school because teachers would refer to her with male pronouns.

"It was kind of sad for me because I felt like I lost my little boy, but, at the same time, it was beautiful because I gained a daughter," Amy said.

There were no voices against a district-wide transgender student policy Thursday night, but the district will still be working on a case-by-case by case.

"It's still looking at the individual needs of students because it really gives you more flexibility to actually meet the needs of students based on their needs than it does looking at an overarching policy," director of Student Services David Thompson said.

Emma won't be going back to Glen Arden Elementary this fall. She will likely be going to a charter school within the district instead, which is why her mom took a page from Emma's book.

"And they'll hear me every time because I'll be at every meeting until we get this policy. I don't know what else to do," she said.

"In finding out that there's a 41 percent suicide rate, and this is the statistic for my daughter in the group she's in, I can't do that," Amy said. "I have to try to stop that."

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

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