Transgender woman denied walk at Kahuku graduation
A 2015 transgender graduate of Kahuku High School claims she wasn't allowed to walk at graduation as a female -- so she chose to sit it out.
HONOLULU - A 2015 transgender graduate of Kahuku High School claims she wasn't allowed to walk at graduation as a female -- so she chose to sit it out.
Jennea Purcell is a well spoken 18-year-old. Born a boy and given the name Jackson, she identifies as a woman. She says she transitioned from Jackson to Jennea while in high school at Kahuku, saying, “I was full time female. I dressed like a female. I played the role as a female as far as the bathroom goes, yes, anything the females did, I was doing.”
She wanted to graduate as a female, too. That's where things got complicated. Kahuku High school has two colors of gowns: white for girls, red for boys. Purcell wanted to wear white. She tells us she got an initial OK, but needed to clear it with Principal Pauline Masaniai.
“When I talked to Pauline Masaniai, she was telling me that my choice is the male's choice and that’s the only option I have.”
Purcell admits she was struggling academically in her senior year, but told us she believes she was on track with her credits to walk in graduation. But says it all fell apart in that conversation with Principal Masania.
“When she told me no, everything has shut down for me. I was just done fighting because I had to fight for a lot of things I wanted to do throughout the years being at Kahuku, so I did graduate on time. Just credits wasn’t there on the due date."
The Department of Education flat out disagrees. Spokesperson Donalyn Dela Cruz said, “The department’s been made aware of recently of these allegations. We immediately took a look into them and we can confidently say these are false allegations."
Dela Cruz says she cannot go into details because of DOE confidentiality.
Nearly one year after this all happened... Purcell is telling her story through filmmakers with the Kumu Hina Project. So why put herself out to the public now?
“My intention in making this film and having the petition is just to make sure that no other child, even if they’re not transgender or part of the LGBT community, doesn’t have to go through something like this. It's not okay.”
Along with the film is a petition on change.org that urges the DOE to come up with a comprehensive policy for transgender students.
Dela Cruz says it’s a top priority of the school's superintendent.
“Just because it’s not that we’ve haven’t had transgender students or situations we want to act on for our students. But it goes beyond that. It’s about how we actually are going to implement certain guidelines at every school because every case is so different."