Just when you thought you were done hearing about the B.C. public education system until the next year’s strike a debate has flared up once again. This time it’s not about class sizes, teacher’s compensation, or budgeting. It’s about the bathrooms.
Back in June the Vancouver School Board voted to update their 10 year old policies on sexual orientation and gender identity. Changes included allowing students to be referred to with the pronoun they identify as, to dress in a manner befitting their self and gender expression, and to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and change rooms that correlate with the gender they identify as. Naturally to bigots this proved controversial.
About a week back a petition of 150 signatures was filed with the supreme court by disgruntled parents who apparently failed to both read VSB’s Proposed Revised Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Policy and watch/comprehend South Park’s ‘Cissy’ episode.
Since we know that most fear and intolerance stems from a lack of understanding lets take some time to explain a few things about gender identity, societal attitudes, and using public bathrooms.
5. What The Policy Actually Says
The Vancouver School Board is not the first to apply these kinds of revisions to gender identity policies. Schools and organizations all over the country have adopted or are in the process of adopting similar protocol. VSB’s changes are largely based on the policies of Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation.
The point of the revision is to help provide support for LBGTQ students and create a more inclusive environment free of physical or verbal harassment. This includes allowing transgender students to participate in a way appropriate for their identity such as enrolment in the corresponding gym class, and yes, using the bathroom they’re most comfortable in. The policy also states the inclusion of a gender neutral, single stall, bathroom should be applied if possible for “any student who desire[s] increased privacy”. Which includes trans students or students who’s parents are uncomfortable with trans students.
4. It’s Not The Counsellor’s Fault You’re kid Won’t Talk To You.
Another aspect of the policy that has some parents up in arms is counsellor student confidentiality which some of you may recognizes as old news. Though counsellors have an obligation to tell parents of any incidents or information that could put their child in harms way everyone is entitled to their privacy and secrets; this includes teenagers.
A school counsellor’s job is to provide a safe place for students to talk through their feelings and zits with a knowledgeable adult because it’s universally known that teenagers fucking hate their parents. Let’s face it, most kids would sooner talk to a stranger on the internet than they would someone who gave them half their DNA.
In most cases there’s no real reason for the kid to feel they can’t talk to their parents other than “I’m complicated and deeply conflicted individual and they’ll never understand me” but sometimes, like in the case some LGBTQ students, they may have reason to fear that they’ll seen as a disappointment by their parents or straight up disowned by their family for being who they are. In such a case where a counsellor finds that a student may be put at risk or under duress by a parent knowing about the child’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or anything else they should be under no obligation to inform said parent.
Also I think we can all agree that outing a person is just a shitty, shitty, thing to do. If Justin Trudeau can’t inform the public of allegations of sexual harassment in parliament than you can’t tell people’s parents that they’re gay.
If you’re so concerned about it chances are you’re child seems you as less than tolerant or the LBGT lifestyle. If you’re kid doesn’t want to share who they are with you because they think you’ll love them less for it than you’re the one who fucked up not the school.
3. Transgender Kids Don’t Go Around Whipping Out Their Junk.
What is the worst thing that could happen from letting a trans student use the same bathroom as your kid? What exactly do you think goes on in public bathrooms? Incase you’ve never been in one allow me to be the one to tell you they are decidedly unsexy if that’s what you’re worried about. I can safely say that in all my years of being in school and using public bathrooms in general, I have never been exposed to any genitals other than my own. I can’t speak for the men’s restroom but from what I see in movies it looks like they’ve adopted a pretty stern, but often unspoken, rule of “keep your eyes on your own dick” in regards to urinals.
Besides, If anything don’t you think a transgender kid would be less likely to get naked in front of other kids? When it comes to high school kids everyone thinks of them as these big balls of hormones bouncing around trying to bump their uglies into other kids. To an extent that is absolutely true. However, the thing everyone seems to have forgotten is the crippling body image issues that accompany those hormones. The only thing that trumps a teenager’s budding sex drives is their fear of humiliation and deep seeded self loathing. It’s bad enough being insecure about acne and hair sprouting up in unattractive places without the added anguish of having the wrong nether regions. That kind of discomfort in your own body is gonna over rule the exhibitionist streak lurking inside any individual.
2. Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Are Two Different Things.
This might be the hardest thing for straight cisgendered people to wrap their head around. I think a lot of straight people consider their sexuality a direct result of their gender when the two things aren’t mutually inclusive. It’s hard to explain why you’re attracted to what you’re attracted to and dumbing it down to, “I’m a man so I like women” or vice versa, is the easiest way for us to understand it. That understanding is also likely a big factor in some people’s belief that one chooses homosexuality. Reducing sexuality to a sum of your parts if a gross over simplification of a very complex subject. It’s like how most people have a type. If you surveyed a dozen straight women about their ideal physical mate you would end up with a dozen different dream men. There’s no real reason on a reproductive level to prefer blondes over brunettes but most people have a preference anyway.
Being gender-queer doesn’t amount to being queer. If you have a transgender woman (someone born a male who on the inside is female) that doesn’t mean she’s a gay man who wants to undergo gender reassignment or that she is attracted to men at all. She could be a trans-woman who wants to boink other women and having a penis wouldn’t make her a straight man. I can see where this starts to get complicated for people. The easiest way to un-complicate it is to think of gender and sexual orientation as two separate things (which they are). Though born a male she is female and on a separate and unrelated note she is also a lesbian. It’s only gets confusing when you try to draw lines between two things that have nothing to do with each other. Trying to explain someone’s sexuality with their gender identity is like saying that someone likes hockey because they’re a metal fan. You’re trying to combine two things that have nothing to do with each other. So unless those who things are horror and comedy or french fries and Nutella just don’t.
1. The Kids Are Ready For This.
As with most controversies the biggest cause is an age gap. Traditionally the younger generation is more open minded and progressive than their parents before them and this has not changed.
Throughout the last 60 years especially we’ve seen a huge leap in societies support and expectations of equality. It’s widely considered unacceptable up the public to discriminate against someone on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation and even though we haven’t reached total equality on any fronts, for most young people, having grown up in a world where the biggest struggles have been already been fought we have adopted a “no duh” attitude in regards to equality. To most of us it seems like a pretty obvious concept that everyone should be allowed the same rights and privileges and we haven’t really had any major changes in social attitudes to adjust to. We know racism and sexism exist still but we were never raised in a world where the masses encouraged or condoned it. Today’s kids are remarkably supportive and accepting of each other’s differences these days which is amazing because kids are typically pretty shitty to each other seeing as they’ve only just discovered their capacity for compassion.
Parents arguing that sharing a bathroom with a trans student are parents who are still living in an out dated state of mind. The idea might make you comfortable but if you’re living in Canada in 2014 chances are very high your child has no problem with it unless you’re telling them they should. In my high school you were just as likely, if not more likely, to be picked on for being a bigot as you were for being fat, ugly, or socially challenged because apparently all those anit-bullying campaigns and assemblies did work even if it was only in the real world and not online.
Today’s kids are smart enough, mature enough, and understanding enough for this change in policy whether or not their parents are. The outrage is ridiculously out of proportion for the impact it will have on most kids day to day lives. The only kids who stand to be dramatically affected by this are the kids who the policy is meant to help. So to the 150+ parents in Vancouver who are loosing sleep over this policy revision: calm the fuck down and stop trying to take happiness away from children.