Tuesday, May 17, 2016
"The Ewww Factor"
The email from yesterday's piece on transgender individuals and bathrooms can be imagined: frightened, ignorant people, prattling on about "God's law," as if any self-respecting deity from any defendable theology would not strike them dead on general principles. just for the offense of uttering His name as a hallelujah chorus for whatever uninformed nonsense they seem determined to uphold. They don't merit reading.
But I did get one email from a transgender lawyer that included the email she sent me in November, when last I addressed this issue. I re-read it, and thought, offering as it does something too little heard in all this— direct testimony from the people most affected—it would be of interest to you.
I read your column on the transgender controversy at District 211. I found it thought-provoking, as most of your columns are. I did want to share a few thoughts of my own with you.
One of the difficult things about growing up transgender is what I call the "ewww" factor. Growing up as a boy who acted like a girl caused people in my life, including classmates, to act towards me as though I were "ewwwy". Trans kids are often shunned as "different". Because human beings are social animals, this shunning is very painful and difficult. When the government, itself, however, takes the position that certain kids have to be treated differently from everybody else, the results for those kids are devastating. While I understand that discrimination against black people is different from discrimination against transgender people, I am sure that I do not need to remind you that one of the bases of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education was a cultural/social study about how black children felt about race, a study that involved children picking out dolls of different races in response to certain questions. It is simply not good or right for the government to tell certain children that they are different from other children and cannot be allowed to join with them as equals.
Your column quotes Cates ["Inside the Girls' Locker Room," Nov. 5, 2015], the Superintendent of the district as saying, "Measures of privacy allow developing teenagers to choose for themselves whether or not to use privacy areas . . . safeguarding matters for transgender teens we believe will be helpful to students in our locker room." But, of course, Cates is not allowing transgender teens to choose for themselves whether or not to use privacy areas--he is requiring them to use privacy areas and allowing cis-gender kids to "choose for themselves".
Some girls are born with penises. Some boys are born with vaginas. It is high time we as a society learn to accept that fact. Allowing trans girls into the girls locker room on the same basis as other girls, and allowing trans boys into the boys locker room on the same basis as other boys, does not pose a threat to anybody. And if, as Cates says, the district will allow students to choose for themselves whether to use privacy areas, cis-gender kids who have some (I think irrational) issues with trans kids can themselves use the privacy areas.
You say that the "fervent desire [of trans girls] to stride easily into the girls' locker room and be welcomed as one of the gang is still, at this cultural moment, constrained if they also possess a penis." I understand that locker room use is different from bathroom use. But for over a year I used women's bathrooms in courthouses all over the Chicago metropolitan area while I still had a penis. No one was embarrassed, inconvenienced, bothered, or hurt. Transgender people are required to live 24/7 as the gender to which they are transitioning for certain periods of time before they can access certain types of transition health care
I think you could have taken a bolder stand with your column.
Yours very truly,
Joanie Rae Wimmer
Attorney at Law
Downers Grove, Illinois