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French teens protest after transgender classmate's suicide

French teens protest after transgender classmate's suicide

LILLE, France (AP) — 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.

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 Wednesday 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.

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, who was of North African origin, had suffered both gender and racist discrimination inside and outside school, said a friend, Annabelle, who was at Friday’s protest. Annabelle did not want her last name published because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Fouad “was suffering a deep pain that dates to a long time ago,” and was aggravated by the situation around her gender identity at school, Annabelle told The Associated Press.

“We are here to send a message of tolerance,” Annabelle said. “And to tell Fouad we are here for her.”