You won't have any problem getting Sunnie Kahle is eight-years-old and loves to collect coins and hunting knives and baseballs. She also likes teddy bears and bracelets, but even she admits most of the things she likes are “boy hobbies.”
And, apparently, that’s the issue, because, as a girl, she should be wearing dresses and playing with dolls and learning how to cook and sew and take care of her man because this is the 1950s, at least in her little corner of Virginia.
"Sunnie realizes she's a female, but she wants to do boy things. She wants to play rough and tough." — Doris Thompson, Kahle's great-grandmother and legal guardian
Thompson has raised Kahle since she was an infant and remembers when Sunnie was five, and had hair down to her waist and asked her great-grandmother to cut it short because she wanted to give it to a child with cancer.
It was after that hair cut that Sunnie started wearing only jeans and t-shirts; no more dresses for her. And that’s also when the questions, and the troubles at school, started.
Sunnie says her classmates would ask if she was a boy or a girl, though it never bothered her. But it did bother the administrators at Timberlake Christian School [TCS], where Sunnie was a student and, last month, TCS principal Becky Bowman sent home a letter reminding Doris Thompson of the school's religious affiliation and its right to refuse students who contradict a "biblical lifestyle" … like girls who have short hair and wearing jeans:
"We believe that unless Sunnie and her family clearly understand that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity, that TCS is not the best place for her future education.”
Doris Thompson was offended by the letter and its references to biblical passages about sexual immorality. She says she’s raised Sunnie as a Christian and that Sunnie is just a tomboy, too young to understand sexual orientation or gender identity issues, but …
"If my child grows up to be homosexual or transgendered, I will love her that much more."—Doris Thompson said.
Sunnie no longer attends TCS; she is now enrolled in public school, but she wishes things had been different.
"I should just be able to be me and not let them worry about it."—Sunnie Kahle
Jeff Abbett, administrator of Timberlake Christian Schools, released this statement when the story broke:
"We are heart-broken that Sunnie’s grandparents have made her the subject of a public discussion. We regret that they made the decision to withdraw Sunnie immediately from Timberlake Christian Schools.
For confidentiality reasons related to a minor, it is not possible for us to explain in full detail the volume of documentation we have concerning the situation that the grandparents have made public. There is much more to this story than has been revealed related to Sunnie and the classroom environment. Our documentation shows a significantly different narrative than the one portrayed in the original news report.
You can be assured that we have cared for Sunnie and worked with her grandparents for several years to assist them. Our TCS teachers and administrators love Sunnie and we can assure everyone that this has never been an issue of hair length or boots as it has been portrayed. It has been our constant desire over the last several years to work with this family and to shepherd this precious little girl in a way consistent with traditional values.
As a private Christian school, we have the responsibility to all our students to assist parents to instill the Christian values upon which our school is founded.
We reiterate that the decision to remove Sunnie was entirely that of the grandparents."
Doris Thompson says Sunnie has never had any behavioral issues at TCS and that she has a 4.0 GPA; she does say that one time, there was an issue because Sunnie wanted to wear boy's pants as part of her school uniform. When asked if that was correct, if Sunnie was a good student who never caused problems, Jeff Abbett simply said, "Yes."
So who does that hurt? She’s a child being a child. She might be gay; she might be transgendered; what difference does it make when the school’s only job is to educate her? Who does she harm by wearing jeans, or having short hair, or collecting hunting knives?
I find it hilarious that the voice of reason is an eight-year-old girl who just wants to be herself, and yet she was surrounded by teachers and administrators who thought it more important that she wear a dress.
And we worry about kids bullying kids when we have schools like this one that try to set children against each other by saying that one child who does not conform to outdated gender stereotypes is a problem.
Turn the mirror back on yourselves.