Saturday, September 3, 2016

Public Schools Forced To Address The Transgender Restroom Issue Or Risk Losing Federal Funds

As I finished up the first part of my last article, “What Needs To Be Said About The Target Transgender Restroom Debacle” the transgender acceptance debate spread to the public school system, thanks to at least one school which made a similar statement to the one Target made. This was then followed by a directive from President Obama, declaring that all public schools should adopt a similar policy regarding restrooms and locker rooms, or risk losing their federal funds; funds which most public schools rely on just to keep their doors open.

We are talking about students who for the most part, are under the age of 18, and unable to provide any type of legal consent or make legal decisions without the input and approval of their parent or guardian. Personally, I believe that even if a child is questioning their gender in high school, it could be for any number of reasons. It probably isn't going to be until sometime after the age of 18 that they truly figure out whether it is a real issue or simply an insecure phase when they were questioning their identity due to other circumstances.

I did not attend a traditional high school, so I missed out on most of the discrimination, bullying and harassment that is directed toward students in public schools who might be a little different. Although, by not attending a traditional school, I did at times become the target of some of this bullying in other settings when I was the outsider, surrounded by teenagers who did attend traditional public schools. While this discrimination had nothing to do with gender identity, I cannot imagine how humiliating it would have been to suddenly let everyone know that I identified as a different gender and would expect to be treated as such going forward.

Schools can say that they have severe penalties for discrimination and bullying, but the harsh truth is, that most of it will never be witnessed or reported. So if a student who truly feels they identify as a different gender chooses to take advantage of this new policy at school, they are almost guaranteeing they will be harassed. So which is worse, being bullied for being a little different, or being bullied because you decided to come out as being transgender? I think most students will take the stance that they should just stick to what is expected as long as they are in school, because that is the path of least resistance. Why? Because teenagers are mean little fuckers!

So aside from the fact that many people don't believe transgender is a real thing, what is the best way to handle this issue in the schools? The way I see it, there are three options.

Option one; we keep everything the way it is. Students keep using the same restrooms and locker rooms as they always have; dictated by the sex listed on their birth certificate. Yes, there will be some harassment directed toward students who are a little different, but this is not only for students who identify as a different gender. Many students are different in one way or another, and their schoolmates are sure to point out these differences in order to make up for their own insecurities. There might be students who would feel less out of place in the restroom of the opposite sex, but this discomfort is surely minor compared to the potential humiliation of having the other students find out that you are choosing to take advantage of the new policy and use that other restroom.

Option two; we allow students to register with the school as a different gender, but only with the approval of their parents. The directive from President Obama states that a student or their parent/guardian may notify the school of this change, but it does not require the parent/guardian to take part in this process. It only allows them the ability to notify the school, presumably in a situation where the student didn't want to be the one to have the conversation with school administration. This option, if the student's parent was required to take part due to their age, would at least reduce the likelihood of a student claiming to be transgender, just to get a free pass to scope out the scenery in the restroom or locker room of the opposite sex. If a transgender student chooses to take advantage of this option, the school should make it clear to them that while they will do everything in their power to avoid any bullying or discrimination from the other students due to this decision, it is impossible for them to provide a safe and protected environment for them at all times. It should be noted, that while this addresses the needs and insecurities of the transgender students, it does nothing for the other students who might be uncomfortable sharing a restroom or locker room with someone who was born with the physical characteristics of the opposite sex.

Option three; we get rid of group restrooms and locker rooms in public schools and replace them with single-person facilities, so no one is forced to choose a room for one sex or the other. Personally, I believe that if we are truly trying to make all students as comfortable as possible in order to avoid bullying and discrimination, this is your best option. Of course, it is also the most expensive option. It would require potentially major remodeling and expansion of every public school in the country. But if President Obama and other departments of the federal government believe this is as important as they say it is, I'm sure they can manage to find the money to make this happen.

But I will leave you with one question; a rhetorical question to which I do not have the answer. Is this whole ordeal really about making transgender individuals more comfortable and less-susceptible to discrimination, or is there some other hidden agenda that we aren't seeing, due to being so focused on the topic at hand that we are missing the big picture?

I don't know, but I would love to hear your thoughts!

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