Thursday, January 23, 2014

Clear As Mud

Here's a topic that's as clear as mud: transgender students.

I will admit upfront that I am not terribly well educated about transgender issues.  I have been open about being a supporter of gay rights (or as I like to call them, civil rights), and often transgender issues and rights get lumped in with gay rights (as in the phrase LGBT -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender).  Honestly, I'm not sure what each one has to do with the other, but experts and people in the know have coined this term, so I defer to their expertise.

I believe, in my very limited understanding, that being transgender is a legitimate thing.  I believe it is possible for someone to be born biologically one gender yet feel as if he or she is actually the other gender.  I think it's probably pretty rare, but I believe it happens.  I don't believe it's a conscious choice by an individual -- it's just the way they are.  Much like I don't believe those who are gay are so by choice.  I can't imagine why anyone would choose to be gay, considering the social backlash that exists in this country (although it is moving in the right direction).  I can't imagine anyone would voluntarily choose to identify him or herself as transgender either because the social backlash against that is even greater than that against those who identify as gay.  I also can't believe that a child of any age would voluntarily choose to say he or she is transgender because that causes a huge brouhaha and opens the child up to bullying and cruelty from both peers and adults and society in general.  If a child identifies as transgender, that's got to say something for "being born that way" -- kids don't understand the controversy surrounding being transgender; they probably don't even really understand what it is (most adults don't even understand what it is) -- they just know that they are one gender physically but feel like they are the other.

I have to believe that such a drastic realization isn't taken lightly by anyone associated with the transgender person -- the individual him or herself, the parents, or any doctors or psychologists.  I'm sure that for a child to truly be identified as transgender, much analysis and discussion and understanding must happen first.  A child of 6, 10, 13, 16, or even an adult for that matter can't just walk into a psychologist's office and say, "I'm transgender," and have the response be, "Okee dokee, you are!"

That being said, something must be done to help those who truly are identified as transgender navigate their way in this world, and this includes school.  The California Transgender-Student Law, known as AB1266, has stirred up huge controversy.  A well-written law that asserts the rights of those who are transgender should be a good thing; note I said a WELL-WRITTEN LAW.  If AB1266 isn't well written, then it's going to do more damage than good.  Kids who are truly identified as transgender don't deserve to be bullied or harassed or discriminated against.  They are children and they are human beings with feelings.  If AB1266 is a bad law, then get it re-written so it is a good law.  If it a good law, then a massive education campaign must be launched.  In this country, ALL children deserve to get an education, and anyone who know anything about education knows about what is called the "hidden curriculum".  These are the things we all learn at school but are not directly taught -- things like punctuality, organization, teamwork, and tolerance.  So if ALL children deserve an education, we have to make sure that even children who identify as transgender get that education, too.

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