In the same week that we celebrated the end of Proposition 8 and Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), NCLR was on the brink of settlement in a key case for one of our most inspiring clients. Dynasty Young is gay, African-American, and proudly gender non-conforming. What happened to him is appalling and shocking, and in many ways, reminds us of how much work we have left to do.
Dynasty moved to Indianapolis from Arizona in the summer of 2011. From the day he enrolled at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), he endured relentless harassment and bullying by his peers, from verbal taunts to having bottles thrown at him on his way home from school. Over and over again, he and his mother turned to school officials for help, but instead of taking effective steps to address the bullying and harassment, school employees blamed Dynasty for being “too flamboyant” and asked him to “tone it down.” As the months went on and the harassment continued, Dynasty’s mom watched his emotional and physical health deteriorate. Afraid for her son’s safety and not knowing what else to do, she decided to give Dynasty a self-protection flashlight, a small device that emits light, a loud noise and an electric charge, to carry with him while at school.
On April 16, 2012, six students surrounded Dynasty, ready to attack him. Afraid of what was about to happen, Dynasty pulled the device out of his bag, pointed it up in the air over his head, and activated it. The noise caused the aggressors to scatter without assaulting him. What happened next was unbelievable: instead of trying to find the students who threatened Dynasty, school officials suspended and later expelled Dynasty for trying to protect himself.
That was where we got involved. Despite our efforts to persuade the IPS to reconsider the expulsion, school administrators refused, offering to take Dynasty back only if he attended an alternative school for students with behavioral difficulties. Rather than return to IPS schools under those unacceptable conditions, Dynasty enrolled at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school. In August of 2012, we filed a federal lawsuit against IPS on Dynasty’s behalf, challenging the expulsion and school administrators’ failure to address the harassment he experienced.
This week, we settled with the school district. As part of the settlement, which must be approved by the court, IPS has agreed to erase the expulsion from Dynasty’s school records. Now, the school’s outrageous treatment of Dynasty won’t hold him back as he continues his education and starts his career. Dynasty will also receive $65,000 as compensation for what he went through, which he intends to use for his education.
Best of all, Dynasty graduated from his new high school on schedule on June 28. The resolution of this case will give him a big head start on his future and will help, at least in part, to make up for the horrifying experiences of his junior year.
Dynasty’s story, and its happy ending, is only possible because of YOUR support of our advocacy and vision. We were there for Dynasty because YOU are there for Dynasty—and for every other kid made to feel fearful and ashamed of who they are. YOU are the reason we have come so far. YOU are the reason we can pledge to leave NO ONE behind!
We cannot accept the idea that where you live in this nation determines whether you will be entitled to basic dignity and respect as an LGBTQ person. We will not accept a nation divided between the privileged—those of us lucky enough to live in an area or a state where our humanity is acknowledged and embraced, and the vulnerable—those who have no protections or recognition under the law. And yet that is the country we now live in. Dynasty’s story is a perfect example of what forces are unleashed when an LGBTQ person is forced to live in an environment with so little respect and regard for the common humanity of its LGBTQ citizens.
In far too many places in this country, it is scary to be openly gay; it is an act of courage to be who you are. How can it be that we won big at the Supreme Court and this is still the story of so many? We will not rest until ALL OF US live free from stigma and harassment and discrimination based on who we are. We won for Dynasty. And we will be there for whomever is next.
With heartfelt thanks,