I  ssak Wolfe is an impressive young man.

The courage he's displayed as a transgender student seeking fairness from the Red Lion Area School District as he completes his senior year in high school has been dignified and persistent.

Let me also express my surprise at the insensitivity being shown Issak by the school district for nothing more than daring to be different.

If it's difficult to tell the world -- and I'm absolutely certain it must be -- that you're gay or lesbian when you're a teenager, imagine how much more difficult it must be for a high school student to admit he's a man in a woman's body and he intends to change all that surgically and legally.

Issak was born female -- his birth name is Sierra Stambaugh -- but as he grew older he realized he had all the plumbing of a female, but he didn't feel female.

Eventually, he came to the conclusion he was a guy in a girl's body.

It was not a realization that could have come easily for him.

And finally, he decided to "come out" to his family, his friends, his schoolmates, his teachers, the whole world.

For the most part, he said, he was treated with respect.

But there's just no way he could have done that without being scared half to death. It's one thing to "come out" as an adult -- that would have been difficult enough -- but doing so as a high school student is something else altogether.


Because teenagers can sometimes be downright mean about anything or anyone who's a little bit different.

In the end, though, it wasn't the students Issak had to worry about so much. Same with parents, family and friends.

In the end, it is the unenlightened bureaucracy of one York County school district and its insistence on abiding by tradition that has caused Issak the most heartache.

Still, he persists in pushing his case. Why? Because he doesn't want anyone else to go through what he's going through.

It started with his decision to run for king of the prom court instead of queen, as his current gender would suggest. School officials initially said OK, but when the printed ballots appeared, Issak's name was not on the "king" side of ledger. Instead, the school listed "Sierra" under the queen column.

And they did it without so much as a discussion or a warning. Issak learned about it the hard way, when he picked up a ballot.

Keep in mind that Issak had announced to the world the summer before his junior year in high school that he was changing his name and gender. His friends, classmates, family, teachers and administrators knew he'd been going by "Issak" for well over a year. He was accepted in the high school as Issak.

Or so he thought.

So he requested the school change the prom ballot. It refused.

Then he was told he wouldn't be able to attend the prom with a date. He pushed the point, and the school district relented. He attended his prom as Issak.

But then the question of how he would be treated as a graduating senior -- as Sierra or as Issak -- moved to the front burner. He wanted to walk as Issak, wearing the black gown all male students are expected to wear, not the yellow gown worn by female students. And he wanted to be called by Issak Wolfe, not Sierra Stambaugh.

The school district agreed to his wearing of the gown worn by male students. But it refused to refer to him by anything but his "legal" name -- Sierra Stambaugh -- when handing out diplomas.

And that's where it all stands right now.

The American Civil Liberties Union is, of course, involved in the dispute. It's working on Issak's behalf, seeking apologies and concessions from district officials.

So far, no apologies have been forthcoming, according to Issak.

Like I said, the courage Issak has displayed, his commitment to his principles, his pursuit of fair treatment are to be admired. It would have been very easy to give up the fight when facing so much resistance from the adults in charge.

But he didn't.

Frankly, I don't understand the school district's problem. And since school officials aren't talking on the record, no one else -- including Issak and the ACLU -- understands it, either.

In my mind, it's simple. When faced with these sorts of difficult decisions, I ask myself two questions:

One, is this going to hurt me in any way? And two, is it going to hurt anyone else in any way?

And if the answers to both of those questions are "no," as is the case here, I say let Issak get on with his life as he sees fit, without judgment, without interference, without castigation and without making a mountain out of a mole hill.

It doesn't have to be any more complicated than that.

It's his life. It's his business. The rest of the world, including the administration at the Red Lion Area School District, needs to butt out.

It hurts absolutely no one if Issak Wolfe is called by that name to receive his diploma. It is his preference.

As an act of kindness and fairness, I say let it be done.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhick s@yorkdispatch.com.