In the film “A Kid Like Jake,” Leo Davis is an actor who plays Jake Wheeler, a gender non-conforming child whose parents, played by Claire Danes and Jim Parsons, must learn to navigate society’s view on how their child expresses himself. Not only does this movie highlight an issue that is important to GELC, the story strikes a chord as we represent Leo and his parents, Dani Super and Mike Davis, in a lawsuit against the NYC Department of Education for discriminating against Leo because of how he expresses his gender.
In the beautiful film, directed by Silas Howard (Pose, Transparent), the viewer is confronted with questions that are in many ways similar to the experiences of our clients. That is, a young boy who expresses himself in ways typically associated with “being a girl,” illustrates the need to educate parents, teachers, and others about how to create more inclusive spaces for children who do not conform to gender binaries.
Leo, a (now) six year-old boy who loves pink, Barbie dolls, and anything that sparkles, was confronted with gender-based biases in his own life while attending a local public school in Park Slope Brooklyn, New York. Not only did the school do little to nothing to make Leo and his parents feel welcome, they also overreacted to Leo’s schoolyard jokes involving “bathroom humor;” escalating these jokes to a matter of serious concern, including reporting his mother for child abuse. While Ms. Super was ultimately acquitted of all charges, the stigma and trauma of such conduct lingers and is a constant reminder to the family that Leo’s gender expression can be construed in the most pernicious ways.
In late August of last year, GELC filed a lawsuit on behalf of Leo and his parents at the New York City Commission of Human Rights asserting that Leo’s school, P.S 107, created a hostile environment for Leo based on his gender identity and expression. Ms. Super said of the lawsuit, “My job is to protect my child, and to make my child comfortable so he can flourish.”In keeping with Ms. Super’s promise, she and Mr. Davis have since moved Leo to a different school that is more affirming of his gender expression, where he is now thriving.
At GELC we believe that all children have the right to express themselves regardless of gender, gender identity, or gender expression and will fight to see that Leo and his family, and families like them, are able to send their children to school with the comfort of knowing their child will not be treated differently due to their gender.