By the end of fifth grade, a staff person follows Nicole everywhere in an “eyes-on” policy meant to protect her. When sixth grade begins, not much changes except for the building, which is adjacent to the elementary school.
Even though the “eyes-on” policy is meant to protect Nicole, it starts to feel like yet another way of singling her out and making her feel that she is being punished instead of Jacob.
A few weeks after the start of sixth grade, Nicole takes an all-day workshop with an arts organization, spending the day in the high school. On a break for dinner, Nicole tries to use the girls’ restroom, because there is no gender-neutral bathroom in the high school. But older students top her, taunting her and telling her she can’t use the restroom. When Kelly reports this incident, the assistant principal essentially argues that it was Nicole’s fault because she is meant to be using the gender-neutral bathroom. He concludes that Nicole “was not harassed during this incident.”
Because Jacob’s behavior goes unpunished, other students also take it upon themselves to bully Nicole and limit her behavior. The school seems to completely ignore not only the fact that it has not provided her with the proper facilities, but also the fact that these students’ behavior is harassment, regardless of whether or not Nicole is following the rules. It is not up to the other students to determine what Nicole can and cannot do, and their teasing simply reinforces the fact that the school is actively discriminating against her.
The school’s policies—particularly the “eyes-on” policy on Nicole—begin to wear on the family. In the spring of sixth grade, the school takes the kids on an annual whitewater rafting trip. Nicole is told that she will not be allowed to sleep in the girls’ tent and will need a separate tent. Kelly marches into Bob Lucy’s office, asking if he thinks Nicole is a predator and whether the gay kids are sleeping in a separate tent too. He has no response. Kelly decides that this is the last straw.
Much of the school’s policy on Nicole, and much of the way other kids treat her, seems to stem from a harmful false association that existed (and still exists to this day), in which people assume that transgender and gay people will somehow bring harm to the other people who sharing the public accommodations. But just because Nicole is transgender, as Kelly notes, does not mean that she is a predator.
Nicole is anxious and angry. She started seeing a new mental health counselor, named Christine Talbott, after Dr. Holmes retired. Talbott tries to help Nicole have a positive outlook and find better ways to ease her own anxiety than plucking out her eyebrows. Still, Nicole is exhausted: Jacob harassed her twice in May, including mocking her for having a “mustache.” She frequently imagines killing Jacob and the girls who tease her.
The fact that the discrimination Nicole faces at school is so persistent makes it clear that being out as a LGBT individual can sometimes, as in this instance, be very unsafe because of others’ prejudice and harassment.
One day in April, Nicole admits to Kelly and Wayne that she had been about to go into the girls’ restroom when Bob Lucy had noticed her, whistled loudly at her and pointed at her to use the staff restroom. She had been mortified. She tells her parents, “I hate being transgendered.” In a journal entry addressed, “Dear Universe,” she asks why her behavior seems so threatening to everyone else and expresses concern that so many transgender people are suicidal, yet their sex reassignment surgeries aren’t covered by insurance companies. She wishes that the LGBT community could be safer.
Bob Lucy’s treatment indicates to Nicole that the school is not actually interested in making sure that she is protected and has equal rights. It is more concerned with avoiding the controversy that was instigated by Paul and Jacob Melanson. Additionally, Nicole’s plea to the universe addresses several other aspects of the obstacles that the LGBT community faces.