12-Year-Old Transgender Student Delivers Powerful Speech to School Board to Fight Transphobic Rhetoric

PHOTO: Ari Bowman gave a powerful speech to the East Penn School Districts school board, countering what he believed was recent hateful and ignorant rhetoric about transgender students PlayCourtesy Alisa Bowman
WATCH 12-Year-Old Transgender Student Delivers Powerful Speech to School Board

A 12-year-old transgender boy from Pennsylvania recently received a standing ovation and an "overwhelming amount of support" after delivering a powerful speech to his school board in an effort to counter what he saw as hateful and ignorant rhetoric about trans students, according to his mother.

Alisa Bowman told ABC News today that her son, Ari, gave the speech on Sept. 12, just a few weeks after a fellow student allegedly said she would rather fail gym class than change with transgender students in the locker room.

"Ari and I really felt like if we didn't speak ... this ignorance and hate would end up winning," she said. "It was incredibly important for my son and I to set the record straight and explain who transgender people are."

Bowman recorded Ari's speech to the board on video and uploaded it to Facebook, where it has since gone viral, with 40,000 views as of today.

"Hello, my name is Ari. I'm transgender," the seventh-grader begins in the video. "You might not know that from the look of me, but I enjoy normal things. I play soccer, I like video games, just like anybody else."

PHOTO: Ari Bowman gave a powerful speech to the East Penn School Districts school board, countering what he believed was recent hateful and ignorant rhetoric about transgender students.Courtesy Alisa Bowman
Ari Bowman gave a powerful speech to the East Penn School District's school board, countering what he believed was recent hateful and ignorant rhetoric about transgender students.

Ari later says in the video that "the hate the transgender community has been receiving recently has been terrible ... People say things without an open mind and as if we're not human beings like they are."

He addresses the the bathroom and locker room controversy, saying that he changes in the boys' locker room and he has "seen zero genitalia."

"If you think that genitalia will make someone uncomfortable, then think of the story I told earlier about the girls not letting me use the bathroom," he adds, referring to a time in first grade when girls didn't want to let him use the girls' bathroom.

"They didn’t care that I’ve had female genitalia," he says. "They cared that I looked masculine and was male at heart. They didn’t care about my body parts. What made them uncomfortable was my looks."

Toward the end of the speech, Ari says that his life "doesn't revolve around me being transgender. It revolves around my family, my friends, everything I love."

"As my mom likes to say, people are afraid of the things that they don’t understand," he adds. "I hope you understand what being transgender means. It doesn’t make me any less or any more. It make me me, and no one can change that."

PHOTO: Ari Bowman gave a powerful speech to the East Penn School Districts school board, countering what he believed was recent hateful and ignorant rhetoric about transgender students.Courtesy Alisa Bowman
Ari Bowman gave a powerful speech to the East Penn School District's school board, countering what he believed was recent hateful and ignorant rhetoric about transgender students.

After the speech, Ari got a "loud standing ovation," Bowman told ABC News. She added that she was "really touched" when the superintendent went over to Ari and shook his hand.

"It was really so beautiful to watch, like watching a baby bird flying out of their nest," Bowman said.

Lower Macungie Middle School wrote on Facebook, "So proud of our own 7th grader Ari Bowman who spoke with our school board Monday night!"

East Penn School District did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for additional comment.