Editorial: Transgender students: too close for comfort?

Cartoon by Mick Donovan

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While the average person can logically determine that the case made by a transgender girl and her family against a high school in Illinois for not being allowed to use the girl’s locker room has nothing to do with prejudice, it did not change how ostracized the unidentified student felt.

Several schools currently choose to protect the privacy of students in bathrooms and locker rooms, rather than incorporating those who are transgender into their preferred environment. Despite the understandable motivation of school districts, some transgender people feel discriminated against for not being allowed access to the bathroom or locker room that matches their gender identity.

Transgender students have brought attention to these regulations, calling them acts of prejudice, bringing inequality between the transgender community and people who identify with their sex. The district accommodates those who want to have their preferred gender as well as name on school records, and allows transgender students to have their choice of gender when joining sports teams, but the policy on bathrooms and locker rooms seems to be the end of the line.

“At some point, we have to balance the privacy rights of 12,000 students with other particular, individual needs of another group of students. We believe this infringes on the privacy of all the students that we serve,” the Illinois district’s superintendent Daniel Cates said.

This is an issue that seemingly lacks understanding from both school boards and transgender students. Administrators are not going to lengths to enforce the safety and comfort of transgender kids as they are more susceptible to bullying when placed in environments specific to their sex. However, the girl who is suing the school was permitted use of her preferred locker room, although she had to change in a curtained area because her body still had the appearance of a boy. The separation of bathrooms seems to not be based on identity or preference, but physical features.

Those on the side of the transgender girl’s mom are offended by a sense of “differentness” being enforced when her daughter was told by the school to change behind a curtain in the girl’s locker room, instead of openly with other girls. It might be said that the school’s initial intent in protecting the privacy of female students is irrelevant if it negatively affects the transgender girl. Without this reality of differentness in action, locker rooms would become co-ed, whether a person thinks it’s purely biological or not. It is immoral to impose on girls changing their clothes as a result of a lawsuit.

Parents have complained against the school that a person’s right cannot be at the expense of someone else. This is the cause of the controversy on the side of parents and other students.

Situations like this one are occurring across the U.S. with groups such as the Human Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in Texas going up against the “No Men In Women’s Bathrooms” campaign. In many places, school districts have allowed transgender students access to bathrooms that fit their preference, with the fear of lawsuits in mind.

The debate revolves around the rights of those who already feel different from who they have been for a large part of their lives, but secludes transgender people in a way they didn’t intend when they said they wanted privacy.

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