It seems that 2013 is certainly the year of the transgender. The whole transgender movement has taken over the spotlight that was once owned by the gay marriage issue. In just the last few months we’ve seen a transgender crowned homecoming queen at an Orange County high school, an army private convicted of espionage who wants to begin hormone treatments so he can live out the rest of his life as a woman, a transgender woman who wants to make a run for Congress in 2014, a transgender theology professor who was asked to resign from his teaching position at a Christian University and a number of bills addressing transgender discrimination and equality issues in states across the nation. And soon there will be a prime time TV drama that revolves around a female-to-male transgender teen and his family. The topic of transgender/sexual identity has become one hot topic.
Here in California Governor Brown recently signed a very controversial bill AB1266 which becomes law on January 1, 2014. The bill allows transgender public school students grades K – 12 to choose which bathrooms they can use and whether they participate in boy or girl sports. The purpose of the bill is to offer protection to young transgenders from the discrimination and bullying they are often forced to endure at school. Supporters of the bill say the changes are long overdue and will make schools more inclusive and welcoming for transgender students. However those who oppose the bill believe that the state law that was already in place which prohibited schools from discriminating against students based on their gender identity was more than sufficient. They believe the legislation violates the privacy rights of boys and girls in public schools throughout the state and has the potential to create major problems on campuses. The backlash caused by the bill will more than likely place the issue in the hands of voters next year as opponents have already begun the process of gathering signatures to place the issue on the ballot.
How voters will respond to the issue is unpredictable at this time because many Californians do not fully understand the new law and are uncertain of its effects on both transgender and regular students. A recent poll shows Californians are uncertain about the new law and hesitant about it even though a majority of them support gay rights issuers. Fifty-two percent of parents polled are opposed to the proposal, while 39% are in favor. The outcome of a vote will most likely depend on the exposure and media coverage the issue receives.
What do you think, are opponents fears unfounded? Has the entire issue been blown out of proportion? Are the fears that biological boys will be invading girls restrooms and showers and biological girls will be using boys restrooms and showers valid? Having worked on a high school campus for 15 years I would have to say that most of the fear associated with the new law are unfounded. It has been my experience that most transgender students do not go out of their way to draw attention to themselves and try to blend in as best they can. I don’t think empowering transgender students is a bad thing and I don’t believe the change will be as radical as some conservatives would have us believe.
The biggest problem schools will face is determining the legitimacy of a students gender identity claim. The new law does not require students to prove they have a gender-identity issue, instead it relies on school administrators to make a decision based on a students’ opinions of themselves. Now that’s going to be a tough call. I wouldn’t want to have to make it. Life on school campuses is tough enough already why make it even more complicated. Sure there will probably be a handful of “straight” students who try to abuse the new law in an effort to get their jollies or show off to friends, but I believe the percentage will be small.
Some have called the whole transgender issue bathroom issue crazy. It may appear so on the surface but it is a major issue particularly for transgenders.They are often bullied, teased or shunned by other students. Many are uncomfortable and generally confused about which facilities they should be using. There are transgender students who simply don’t go to the bathroom while at school, choosing to hold it all day instead which can lead to higher incidence of urinary infections. Some don’t eat or drink all day to staff off the need to use the bathroom. In extreme cases some even cut class, hop the fence and go home to use the restroom. I’ve seen this firsthand. Perhaps this new law will help alleviate some of the anxiety these kids feel. Perhaps it will help these students to be healthier Dehydrated, hungry kids aren’t well prepared to learn.
I tell you things sure have changed since I was in middle school and high school. I don’t recall anything resembling today’s transgender issue. I do remember a few girls who were a bit masculine in nature but we referred to them simply as ‘tomboys’. I don’t really remember any boys who displayed signs of being feminine, perhaps because I wasn’t looking. I guess gays and transgenders were all still in the closet back then and coming out just wasn’t an option. Today gays and transgenders are coming out in droves and creating what is perhaps one of the largest cultural shifts to be seen in quite some time. The big question is are we ready for our accepted social norms and values to be overhauled? Are you ready?