As most informed people know, on May 13, 2016, the Obama administration, armed with wisdom, compassion and legal backing, issued a directive from the Dept of Education and the Justice Department. (Update: the-one-who-shall-remain-nameless has since messed with this important issue.)
The directive stated in part that a school “must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.” It also insisted that schools follow the directive “even in circumstances in which other students, parents or community members raise objections or concerns” because “the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”
To me, this prescription was long overdue, but other folks did not the medicine well. In fact, 11 states (including Texas, Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin – is anyone surprised?) sued in the Federal District Court of Texas to block the government’s actions, arguing among other specious statements that the administration “conspired to turn …educational settings…into laboratories for a massive social experiment…riding roughshod over common-sense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”
These reactionary statements were so wrong-headed and small-minded they made my rainbow-in-solidarity-colored blood boil. For one thing this was no “social experiment”. Transgendered people have existed since time immemorial (and have used bathrooms, or perhaps outhouses, since then as well). More importantly, we are talking about life and death matters regarding children. Those who would refuse to support the administration’s directive need to educate themselves about the all too real suffering of transgender people. Students, parents and teachers should be taught what transgenderism is and is not and perhaps meet – what a concept – some real trans people. One teenaged boy was quoted in the NYTimes saying that being transgendered would be akin to his “putting on a wig”. This kind of thinking comes from a lack of knowledge. (Washington state, for example, will, sometime in 2017, commence teaching gender expression to kindergartners in public schools.) Many of the opponents don’t have facts to base their destructive opinions upon but have allowed instead their fears to run rampant.
I’m proud of the Obama administration for taking this courageous step but worried about what happens with you-know-who. Part of our job on earth, I believe, is for those who can to help those who can’t. Whether one understands transgenderism or not, we must try to put ourselves in “another’s shoes”, as the saying goes. Think about how wrenching it must be to feel that somehow you are in the wrong body, that although your mind tells you that you are a girl, your body looks like that of a boy. How confusing and torturous that must be for a child, for anyone. Parents are experiencing these revelations from the mouths of children as young as preschool.
Beyond the inner turmoil, think about how it feels to admit to one’s parents and the world that you are not who you appear to be. This has to be very frightening and stressful and we haven’t even talked about ever-present threat of violence against a person simply because of who they are (or are not).
In November 2015, the FBI reported that although the number of hate crimes decreased in 2014, violent crimes motivated by a victim’s gender identity tripled from the previous year. This does not account for the many such crimes that go unreported. Additionally more than half of students bullied at school because of transgender bias have attempted suicide.
And what about the danger of a transgender female when she uses men’s bathrooms? That is more likely where the violence will take place. As a transgender female said, trans folks (females in particular) basically have more reasons to be afraid of non- trans folks than vice versa. Which is real talk. Real talk.
The oft-touted counter argument against the directive is that some predatory psychopathic men may prey on young women in restrooms by dressing in female clothing. This is a red herring because any man who wants to do so is already doing so or will and the number of such reported cases is negligible. Should we not help the millions of students in need because of a small number of potential crazies?
Who is going to be policing restrooms anyway to see who goes where and how will they do it? That sounds scary. A while back I wrote a Huffington blog post about stopping a man from going into the women’s restroom and how the person burned through me with fiery in eyes. Thus I learned my lesson well: it is none of mine or anyone else’s business. Some nearly 20 years ago I went to a public bathroom in Europe that was not gender specific and had separate closed-door stalls and communal sinks on the outside. How simple and easy and cool and respectful I thought. So here’s a solution: make all restrooms gender neutral and get rid of urinals in men’s rooms.
Closed door stalls for all!
Get rid of men and women’s bathrooms all together. Just have bathrooms. Raise a glass to closed stalls and open sinks. More enlightened businesses have latched onto this trend. Busboys in Brookland, DC for instance has multiple unisex attractive bathrooms.
To quote my daughter:
Everyone’s gotta pee. It’s not that serious. And really what’s gender got to do with it?