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Gender nonconforming teen helps overturn discriminatory sex-education law in Arizona

By WITW Staff on May 31, 2019

Santi Ceballos, a gender nonconforming 13-year-old in Arizona, has made history by helping to end a state law that barred schools from teaching anything but heterosexuality in sex education classes.

Ceballos told The Guardian that it has been a difficult journey as a nonbinary teen, recalling how bullies began to attack in the third grade. “Every day they’d run away from me at lunch and call me names like stupid, dumb,” Ceballos said. Middle school got worse, so Ceballos transferred to a charter school with a gender-neutral restroom and more progressive views, such as a focus on social justice.

Things went better at the new school, until it came time for sex education. The boys and girls were separated, and Ceballos was told to pick — a traumatic experience. The curriculum included only heterosexual basics, due to a 1991 Arizona law known as the “no promo homo” law. Arizona was one of seven states in the U.S. with such laws, according to The Guardian.

In March, a group called Equality Arizona, backed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal, filed a lawsuit against the state. The suit argued that by focusing sex education only on heterosexuality, Arizona was violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution, according to The Guardian.

Ceballos served as a plaintiff in the suit, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal. The state legislature quickly voted to repeal the law.

“It’s incredibly brave of Santi to be involved in a lawsuit to make Arizona schools more inclusive,” Julie Wilensky, an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told The Guardian.

“There’s not only two genders!” Ceballos said in a video for the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance last year. “Just let us be who we want to be.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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