I was talking to Tiffany and Colton when Matt walked over and sat down beside us. “Look,” he said as he handed me his phone. Colton scooted next to me so he could also watch. On it was a live stream of a local television channel. I watched as my father stood outside the school ranting about our demonstration.
“This wickedness has got to stop!” he shouted into the camera.
The reporter cut him off and asked, “Isn’t your son one of the protesters inside?”
His eyes narrowed as he replied angrily, “I don’t have a son.”
Matt grabbed the phone from my hand. “God, Jacob,” he said sorrowfully. “I didn’t know he was going to say something like that.”
“It’s okay,” I assured him as I fought to hold back tears. “I already knew.” Colton reached down, took my hand and squeezed it tightly. Matt noticed, but he didn’t say anything. Just then, his phone rang and he stood to answer it.
Colton asked worriedly, “Are you okay?”
“I guess,” I replied sadly. “It hurts to know your own father hates you.”
“I’m sorry,” apologized Tiffany. I looked at her as tears appeared in her eyes. “This is all my fault.”
“No,” I insisted as I took her hand and held it. “It’s not your fault. Sooner or later it would have happened anyway. My father is an… an…” I stammered to find the right word.
“Asshole?” giggled Colton.
“Yeah,” I smiled. “I guess that would be a good word.”
Jerome asked, “How long do you think this is going to last?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “We could be here for days.”
“Days!” shrieked Jerome. “We can’t miss that much school, can we?”
Colton laughed and said, “We’re not missing school. We’re here, aren’t we?”
We laughed when Jerome looked around and responded, “Yeah. I guess we are.”
It was about nine o’clock before anything happened again. Some people had been playing games on their phones or reading news articles to see if anything was being said about our little standoff. However, many were beginning to complain that their batteries were getting low, and no one had a charger. Since Matt was our contact with the outside world, he decided it w best if he didn’t use his unless it was necessary.
At 9:10, Matt received a call from Mrs. Edwards. When he hung up, he stood in the middle of the room and announced that there was a breakthrough. He said she didn’t go into much detail, but a meeting was going to be held at one o’clock in the conference room. She wanted him, Mrs. Martin and Mr. Wilder to be present.
Colton asked skeptically, “Can we trust her?” He looked at his father and asked, “What if you go out there and get arrested? Then what?”
Matt responded that she had given her word that they would not be arrested. After the meeting, they would be free to return to the restroom where we were. He looked around the room and said, “We have to trust her.”
I spoke up and asked, “What about Tiffany?”
“What about her?” asked Matt.
“Shouldn’t she be in the meeting since it involves her?”
Tiffany responded, “It’s okay, Bobby.” She looked at her mother. “Mom will be there.”
Suddenly, everyone in the room began to agree that Tiffany should be involved in the meeting. She tried to object, but we continued to argue that she should have a voice in any agreement that was offered.
Jerome took her hand and squeezed it. “I think they are right,” he said.
“Okay,” she agreed.
Matt called Mrs. Edwards and told her that Tiffany would also attend the meeting. When she started to argue that she didn’t want her present, Matt hung up. Five minutes later, she called back and said that Tiffany could attend.
Cathy came over and sat down beside Colton. “What do you think they are going to talk about?”
“I hope we can get out of here,” moaned Colton. “I gotta use the bathroom again.”
“NO!” shrieked Cathy. “You almost killed us the last time. If the army needs gas to use on an enemy, they need to bottle your shit.” Colton’s face reddened as we laughed. We laughed harder when Jerome pretended to toss a bomb and shout, “Incoming!” and then made the sound of a large fart.
A half hour later, someone knocked on the door. Mr. Wilder cautiously opened it, and then he let Mrs. Edwards and Sheriff Tackett enter. Matt asked, “What’s he doing here?”
“He’s here to provide for your safety when we go down the hall,” she stated. Sheriff Tackett folded his arms and puffed out his chest. I found it rather comical.
After they left, Jerome asked worriedly, “Do you think Tiffany will be alright?” Colton, Cathy and I tried to assure him she would be safe. However, in the back of my mind I was worried. I had no idea how much my father was involved. If he was present at the meeting, then things could turn ugly fast, like they had Monday night.
We waited for what seemed like an eternity. We tried to get Jerome to eat, but he was too worried. Several times, he got up and paced around the small room. At one point, Mrs. Oliver had him sit with her while she tried to calm him down.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Colton jumped up, went over and peeked out. He then opened the door. His father and the others entered the room. Tiffany’s face was taut, and her mother was holding her hand when they came into the room. Jerome jumped up, ran over to her and embraced her.
Colton looked at his father and asked, “What happened, Dad?” Everyone stood and gathered around him. Instead, he looked over at Matt and asked him to explain what had happened in the meeting.
“We’ve won,” he announced. Everyone erupted into loud applaud until he added, “Kind of.”
Someone asked, “What’s that mean?”
“It means we can leave,” he replied. “There will be no arrests, and,” he looked at the students surrounding him, “no one will be suspended.”
Jerome hollered out, “But what about Tiffany?”
Matt shook his head and replied, “Mr. Jacobsen is adamant about not letting anyone use a bathroom that is not his or her assigned gender at birth.”
Cathy asked angrily, “So, we’re back to square one?”
Tiffany nervously spoke up. “Please everyone,” she pleaded. “I can deal with this. I don’t want anyone getting in trouble over me.”
We turned when Colton angrily shouted, “Bullshit!”
“Son!” reprimanded his father. “We did the best we could do. Mr. Jacobsen wanted us all arrested for trespassing. Some of the other members disagreed with him. So for now, we can walk out of here without anything happening.”
Colton replied excitedly, “Then all of this would have been for nothing!” He pointed at Tiffany and said, “She still can’t use the restroom at school.”
“We tried,” replied his father disappointedly.
“Well,” scoffed Colton. “It’s not good enough.” He walked over and sat down against the wall. “I’m not going anywhere. They’ll have to come in here and drag my ass out!”
“Amen!” shouted Cathy as she went over and sat beside him.
I looked at Mrs. Oliver when she said, “Me, too.” Cathy stood and helped her sit down on the floor.
“I’m not cut out for this protesting,” she moaned as she sat on the floor. The other students went over and sat down. Jerome grabbed Tiffany’s hand and pulled her towards the wall. She at first resisted, and then she let Jerome help her sit on the floor.
They sat and looked up at me. I was the only student, other than Matt, who hadn’t joined them. I sighed, walked over and stood before Colton. He scooted over so I could sit down next to him and Mrs. Oliver.
Matt looked down at us and muttered, “Screw it.” We applauded when he sat down on the floor before us.
Mr. Wilder looked down and asked us if we were aware of the risks we were taking. He warned us that if we didn’t take the board’s offer, then we risked getting arrested and possibly suspended. When we assured him that our minds were made up, he looked over at Mrs. Martin. She shrugged her shoulder, and then they sat down beside Matt. The room erupted in applause.
Matt’s phone rang. He listened for a minute before responding. “We’ve voted, and we decided we’re not taking your offer.” We could hear what sounded like Mrs. Oliver shouting when he pulled the phone away from his ear.
Mr. Wilder took the phone and informed the principal that we could not accept the offer unless Tiffany was permitted to use the girls’ restroom. He stated, “It’s not right that she should be afraid to use the boys’ restroom. If she would be hurt, you could be looking at a million-dollar lawsuit.” He looked at Tiffany and winked. “Tell that to your self-righteous school board.” He then hung up as we applauded.
As we sat, Mrs. Oliver kept looking worriedly at me. Finally, she asked, “Are you alright, Bobby?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I just don’t understand any of this.” I looked sadly at her and shook my head. “Why does my father have to be so hateful? I mean, he’s always had his strong opinion about things, but this thing seems to really be getting to him. I just don’t understand.”
“He has changed recently,” she agreed. “He’s always preached about sin, but he’s never been as consumed with it as he is now.”
I asked, “But why?” Colton scooted nearer to me so he could hear.
“A lot of it,” she said, “is because the world he knew is changing around him so rapidly.” She shook her head and added, “He just can’t accept it.”
“Men like your father,” she said, “Are dogmatic in their principles. They see the world as they knew it. It became comfortable.”
She smiled and continued, “Then you young’uns come along and turn the world upside down.”
Colton asked, “What did we do?”
“It’s not what you did,” she remarked, “It’s what you didn’t do.”
I asked, “What’s that mean?”
“You didn’t accept the way things were,” she said. “You saw people as equal. You didn’t think that some people were more inferior than others. You grew up believing in equal rights for women, gays, minority groups and now, transgendered people.”
“People are equal,” I adamantly replied.
Mrs. Oliver reached out and patted my hand. “Yes, they are, Dear.” She glanced over at Tiffany and said softly once again, “Yes, they are.”
I asked, “But why won’t my father change?”
She sighed and replied, “Maybe he will in time. With your father, however,” she continued, “it’s a little more complicated. He really believes that God is speaking to him. He thinks he’s trying to save souls.”
“But didn’t Jesus say, ‘Love thy neighbor as thy self?’” I asked. “Going against that doesn’t seem very holy to me.”
She gripped my hand again. “Your father is an Old Testament preacher,” she said. “Jesus spoke to a new world. His message was about love.” She smiled and added, “In fact, I believe that if He were here today, He would probably be sitting in this room with us.”
Colton laughed and said, “I doubt it.” He wrinkled his nose. “It kind of stinks in here.”
Mrs. Oliver smiled and replied, “Well, he did cleanse a leper. He couldn’t have smelled any worse.”
“I don’t know, Mrs. Oliver,” I laughed. “Colton almost ran us all out of here yesterday.”
She giggled and said, “You have a point.”
I looked worriedly at her and asked, “So, what happens now?”
She shook her head sadly, “I don’t know. We’re doing what we feel is right. Now, it’s up to the other side to do the right thing.”
“Fat chance,” huffed Colton.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” said Mrs. Oliver. She extender her hand to me. “Now, Child. Help this old woman up.” I hugged her before standing and helping her to her feet. She shuffled over and slowly sat down beside her daughter.
We sat around talking for about a half hour until Matt received a text message. He read it, and then he handed the phone to me. I held it close to Colton as we read the message from another student: mass walkout after fifth period. assemble around the flag outside
“Wow!” exclaimed Colton as he handed the phone to Cathy. He looked at Matt and asked, “Do you think they’ll do it?”
Matt laughed and replied, “They get out of sixth period. Of course, they’ll do it.” I looked at the time. There was only about forty minutes until fifth period would end.
I asked Matt, “Do you think we should join them?”
He shook his head and responded, “I don’t know. It could be risky.” He looked at the door. “It is hard to tell what will happen if we leave this room.”
Cathy insisted, “I’m for joining the others. Surely they won’t arrest us in front of the whole student body.”
Colton laughed and said, “Are you kidding. That asshole president of the board wouldn’t hesitate a minute to have us maced and arrested.”
Matt shook his head. “I still think it is too risky.” He rose, looked at Colton and said, “Let me go talk it over with your dad.” We watched as he huddled with Mr. Wilder and Tiffany’s mother and Mrs. Oliver.
Jerome gripped Tiffany’s hand and worriedly stated, “I don’t think we should do it. What if someone tries to hurt you?”
She replied, “I’m tired of living in fear all the time. I just want to live a normal life.” She looked at the rest of us and said, “If you decide to go outside, then I’m going with you.”
Jerome sighed, gave us a worried looked and said, “I guess that means me, too.” Tiffany told him he didn’t have to, but he said that if she went outside, there was no way he would stay inside the restroom.
At ten minutes after two, Matt received another email. He showed it to the rest of us. It read: students are having a sit-in around the flagpole cops threatening to arrest us but no one is moving
Colton looked at Matt and asked, “What are we going to do?”
Matt rose to his feet and looked over the group. He announced, “Right now some of the student body is protesting with us. They are having a sit-in outside. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go join them.”
“Me, too,” announced Cathy as she stood beside Matt. The other girls joined her. I looked at Colton. He reached out grabbed my hand. Together we rose and stood beside Matt.
Mr. Wilder walked over and put his hand on Colton’s back. “I’m with you, Son,” he said. We looked down to see what Tiffany and Jerome would do. Tears appeared in her eyes as she stood. She reached down and pulled Jerome to his feet.
She looked at me and attempted to smile as she said, “Well, I guess this is it.”
“Yeah,” I smiled. “I guess we both knew this day would come sometime.”
“I’m worried,” she replied.
“Me, too,” I agreed as Colton held my hand and squeezed it.
We followed Matt to the door. He turned and addressed us. “We have to move quickly. We don’t know who is outside this door. Stay together. Hold on tightly to the person next to you.”
We gathered in a tight group. When Matt thought we were organized, he looked over at Mr. Wilder. Colton’s father nodded his head. “Okay,” said Matt nervously, “Let’s do this.”
He opened the door and we rushed out. Our sudden appearance seemed to take everyone by surprise. A couple of officers were sitting in chairs, but they sprang to their feet when they saw us. Before they could stop us, we had exited the building. A loud cheer arose from the students sitting outside when Matt threw his fist in the air. Everyone jumped to their feet and protectively surrounded us. I looked at all the smiling faces around me.
Suddenly, Mr. Jacobsen came storming out of the building waving his arms. He was followed by Sheriff Tackett and a few officers. “Arrest them!” shouted the board president. The sheriff grabbed him by the arm and led him back inside the building.
Soon, Mrs. Edwards emerged. She walked over to Matt, Mr. Wilder, Mrs. Martin and Mrs. Oliver. They formed a tight huddle. Mrs. Edwards was speaking excitedly, but I couldn’t make out what was being said.
I turned when I heard a bullhorn coming from across the street. My father was standing with a small crowd of about twelve people listening to him. He pointed his finger at the students and shouted, “This is what happens to your children when you let them stray from the word of our God.” He then began to rant about perversion, lust and homosexuality.
Suddenly, a couple of students began to chant, “Straight, trans or gay, Jesus loves us any way!” Soon, all the students began to shout and drown my father out. The louder he preached, the louder the students chanted.
“Wow,” exclaimed Colton. “This is amazing.”
I looked over at Tiffany and tears were flowing down her cheeks. Several students surrounded her and attempted to console her. They didn’t seem to mind that Jerome was still tightly gripping her hand.
Mrs. Edwards left when she noticed a local news station’s camera crew approaching. She hollered out to several officers to stop them from filming the protest. Soon, several patrol cars came careening around the corner.
Matt hollered out to the crowd, “Everyone, sit down and lock your arms around the person sitting next to you!” Everyone sat and scooted closer to the person next to them. I locked arms with Colton and Jerome.
“I’m scared,” cried Jerome as he scooted closer and pressed his body to mine.
“It will be okay,” I assured him. “They can’t do anything to all of us.”
Across the street, I heard my father shout through the bullhorn, “Confess your sins, and make yourself right with the kingdom of God.”
Suddenly, there was a commotion, and everyone stood and looked over to where my father was preaching. Several police cars had pulled up, and they were talking to my father. We couldn’t hear their exchange, but my father seemed rather angry. When he put the bullhorn to his mouth to say something, one of the officers jerked it from his hand.
When my father attempted to pull the bullhorn from the officer’s hand, another officer grabbed my father. My father tried to resist, and the officer wrestled him to the ground. Several other officers rushed over and quickly handcuffed my father. Students started shouting and applauding when they put my father into the back of a nearby cruiser.
There was a chorus of “Straight, trans or gay, Jesus loves us any way!”