This Parent Is Furious After Discovering Their School Outed Their 6-Year-Old Twins, Which Led To An Online Hate Campaign

Imagine you're a parent, and you go online one day to discover that other parents in your community have been talking about your family online for an entire month, all behind your back. They've circulated a petition to pressure your child's school to prevent your child from being themself and had public Facebook discussions where you discover hateful comments about your kid. And all the while, nobody thought to say anything directly to you.

Unfortunately for Mortellus, a 42-year-old parent in North Carolina, they don't have to imagine what that would feel like because they're living it. Mortellus and their spouse Joe have 6-year-old twins who we'll call "Sun" and "Moon" to protect their identities in this piece. Mortellus told BuzzFeed, "While some may ask why we're willing to show a picture including the children's faces, it's to remind people that we — they — are human beings, not mythical villains that can be spoken about in the way they have so done."

A family portrait of four: two adults, a man and a woman, and two children with curly hair. They are sitting outdoors in a park

Recently, Mortellus toured a new charter school for their kids. During the tour, they asked if gender-neutral bathrooms were available, explaining that their kids are nonbinary. Mortellus says that they were assured that although the school is still in the process of adding an ADA-compliant family bathroom, there are already single-stall restrooms available in each classroom, so their children will have a safe place to go.

It's worth pointing out that in 2016, North Carolina was the first state to pass a law requiring people to use restrooms matching their assigned gender at birth. Public schools in North Carolina must adhere to this law, but charter schools like the one Mortellus toured are less stringent.

In recent years, North Carolina has continued to pass laws aimed at transgender youth, including a prohibition on gender-affirming medical care for minors.

Mortellus walked away from that conversation feeling reassured that the school would be a safe and welcoming place for their children to learn. However, somehow, this information about their children's gender identity was leaked to other parents at the school, who started an online campaign against two literal 6-year-olds.

According to reporting by WSPA, a petition against gender-neutral bathrooms and opposing the use of "pronouns" in school circulated online, gaining 1,300 signatures from upset parents (FYI, we all use pronouns because that's how the English language works). The petition, which was hosted on, has since been removed. However, Facebook posts about the petition remain up, and the petition was also discussed at a school board meeting in early May.

Text detailing a parent's concern about gender identity issues, safety, and policy in a school environment, mentioning a specific case of twins with non-traditional gender expressions and impact on facilities use

Mortellus discovered the backlash over their kids after it had been going on behind their back for weeks. They told BuzzFeed, "I became aware of it on June 3, after it had been happening in the public sphere for over a month and behind the scenes for even longer. When I saw it all… I sat there quietly for a moment, feeling like my stomach bottomed out."

"I felt nauseous. I felt sad. I battled with myself over what the right reaction was… but I settled on anger. They’d all put my children in danger, and the school had done nothing to make us aware."

Now, Mortellus is speaking out to clear up the assumptions that so many other parents have been quick to make about their family. "There has been an assumption that I walked in the doors of the school like a cartoon villain shouting HERE ARE MY DEMANDS — but that’s not true at all. I toured the school, chatting casually with staff and hoping to ensure that my children would get a good education and be afforded nothing more than what school policies already allowed and the same amount of support and protection that other children at the school enjoy."

Child washing hands under a faucet in a bathroom sink. Only the child’s hands and part of their arm in a robe are visible

Mortellus also responded to claims that their children are "too young" to understand gender. "In terms of simple child development, we know that children have a pretty strong idea of gender identity as early as three. Society doesn’t really make a fuss about heteronormative binaries being 'understood' by children — because that fits within the hegemony — but when it is an outsider group like my pagan family with a different idea of morality, ethics, and the world generally, suddenly that understanding is villainized."

And they shared what they wish more parents understood about raising nonbinary kids: "That it’s as simple as letting children just… be. That identity is an evolution…not a destination."

Mortellus also has thoughts on how Christianity has been invoked against their family. "It’s because, for some people, the right to religious freedom is only for those who share their beliefs. This is about protecting 'Christian' ideas about gender and sexuality, and we do not share those beliefs. We are not Christian. Our faith protects the right to express oneself as we see fit—not as imposed upon us by someone else’s god. The fact of the matter is that everyone participating in this discourse is intelligent enough to know that no rules or policies were changed and that kindergartners at that school already have gender-neutral bathrooms and always have."

Sign on a wall reads "All Gender Restroom" with symbols for male, female, non-binary, and wheelchair accessible

Finally, to counter the fear, hatred, and misunderstanding their family has been subjected to, Mortellus shared what they love about their twins. "The most joyful thing in the world to me is looking at either of those kids and just knowing that they’re living their best life and getting to explore who they are. So few people get that opportunity, and I’m so happy that they get to have it."

"As for Moon, they want to grow up to be an astronaut, and hope to go to the Moon, and could tell you the technical name of nearly anything in space—even if currently they’re obsessed with unicorns. As for Sun? They’re an absolute math whiz — literally doing algebra at age 5, and I think they’ll probably grow up to do the math that sends their sibling to space. One of their current hobbies is inventing new NumberBlocks characters and building them in Minecraft."