Such assertions are wrong as a matter of science

John Knight, LGBT Project Director at the Illinois ACLU, posts about a suburban Chicago school district that refuses to let a trans girl use the girls’ locker room, instead making her use a separate room.

My clients started meeting with the District more than two years ago to explain why their daughter should be treated as a girl at school in all ways, including when using the locker room. As the District has no policy guiding the treatment of transgender students, the parents had to initiate the discussion regarding how the school would treat their daughter in accordance with her gender. They provided medical information regarding her diagnosis with gender dysphoria and her transition to living fully as a girl, including legally changing her name and changing the gender on her passport.

In response to claims by the school that they had not had to deal with transgender students before, the parents brought in representatives from the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance to educate the school administration and staff. The parents made clear to the District that their daughter’s gender and her medical condition is not a choice and that it is essential to her health and her ability to succeed at school that she be treated as a girl, and that means being treated like a girl in all respects including locker room access.

What the District offered was a separate restroom, down a long hallway, where my client has been forced to dress for gym and the athletics she is involved in. The separation serves as a daily reminder that the school does not regard her as a girl or even a human being but as some undifferentiated “other.”

Does it? Does the separation really say (or “serve as a reminder”) that the school does not regard the student as a human being?

I don’t think it does. I think that’s rhetorical inflation.

What our client wants is pretty basic – to be accepted for who she is and treated just like other students. Other students accept her. The school board and administration apparently do not. These adults should remember that many students are unhappy with their bodies – body image issues can be serious in a world filled with unrealistic and often oppressive images of physical beauty particularly for young women and girls. But no other students – no matter how uncomfortable they are with their bodies – are required to hide them. Imagine how it feels for a girl to be told that her body is so unacceptable that she must dress apart from everyone else – even if she might otherwise choose to do so. The message is loud and clear – transgender students should be ashamed of how they look and who they are.

But if these adults should remember that many students are unhappy with their bodies, then that applies to the girls in the locker room in general, not just to the trans girl.

It is upsetting to see the superintendent say that the District is “sensitive” to the needs of transgender students and supportive of them. The District’s actions are the farthest thing from being supportive. You can’t defend discrimination by claiming you’re nice about it. Most damaging, the superintendent asserts that a girl who is transgender has a “male body” and that transgender students are “of the opposite sex” when defending the District’s position. Such assertions are wrong as a matter of science and offensive because they serve to challenge and undermine the very core of a person’s identity.

In what sense are such assertions wrong as a matter of science? What science is it that says a transgender girl has a female body?

And then this business of the very core of a person’s identity…what exactly about that is immune from challenge? What are the criteria? Are there any limits? If people say their identity is something that doesn’t comport with the apparent facts, does the world have to agree in all circumstances no matter what? Or does this new rule apply only to trans gender people? If so, why?

A transgender girl is female. She is a girl through and through – not something in between as the District suggests.

“Through and through” – what does that mean? How does John Knight know?

I don’t think this kind of magical thinking is going to help anyone in the long run.

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