Rachel Pepe's middle school says she can't come back to school this year—at least, not as Rachel Pepe. The 13-year-old was known as a boy last year at Thorne Middle School in Middletown, NJ, and went by Brian, the name she was given at birth. But now she's transitioning her gender and identity—with the backing of her mother, who says Rachel is much happier than she used to be. Last year, she "would get off the bus and just cry," mom Angela Peters tells the Asbury Park Press. "I am not sending her back as Brian because the depression will start again."
Thorne Middle School told Peters that her daughter's only option was to dress and act like Brian, and that no accommodations could be made to allow her to attend as Rachel. "They definitely can't call her Rachel because on her birth certificate, it is Brian," Peters recalls being told, even though the school has no problem with nicknames being used. Civil rights groups and advocates say the school is violating state and federal anti-discrimination laws, and now the superintendent says the district will work with Pepe's family. "We will work with them to find the appropriate placement," he says. Pepe's mom says she's publicizing their story to help "other kids scared out there, who live secretly at school and go home and be themselves." (Read more transgender stories.)