Teenagers protest over death of Transgender Classmate

About 100 teenagers rallied in northern France Friday to pay homage to a transgender student who killed herself this week after facing tensions with school officials around her gender identity. 

The case has drawn indignation on social media and national concern.

The students held a sit-in and a moment of silence outside the entrance to the Fenelon High School in Lille as school started Friday, expressing their anger and distress at the suicide of their classmate Fouad.

Fouad, 17, killed herself Tuesday in a shelter where she had been staying, the school district said in a statement. She was identified only by her first name according to French policy for protecting minors. A psychological support program was put in place for the students.

Classmates said Fouad had recently decided to go public about her female identity and was summoned to speak with a school official after wearing a skirt to class.

In a video that Fouad shared with friends and online, she is heard talking with the official, who argues heatedly that her transgender identity is upsetting others in the school. Fouad is in tears.

The suicide drew the attention of the national government. France’s minister for diversity, Elisabeth Moreno, tweeted that suicide in the transgender community is seven times the average, adding, “We must absolutely fight transphobia, everywhere.”

Activist groups say several thousand people in France are transgender, and that they face routine abuse or discrimination, either directly or online, despite regulations against it.

Fellow students were upset that the school’s announcement about her death referred to Fouad as a male pupil, and said some teachers refused to refer to Fouad as “she.” Fouad’s supporters put up signs around the school supporting trans rights that school officials took down, before later agreeing to repost them amid uproar.

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