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Under new guidelines those teens in California who identify themselves as transgender will be allowed to choose which restroom, locker room they use, which genders sports team they tryout/play for, leaving questions for a lot of parents as to how this is going to work. One local conservative legal representative speaking to CBS news was clearly concerned about locker room awkwardness, chances for violence as you have girls showering and also a boy in there, or a large male on the girls wrestling team in a high contact, high touch sport causing many of them to feel violated. While at the same time other schools throughout the state in L.A. and San Francisco say they have been functioning under the same rules with no reported problems; this simply makes it legal and official policy statewide for all high schools. On the other side a transgender individual testified for the news piece high school was where he began taking male hormones and living his preferred gender, as a man, still afraid to use the restroom during school, for fear of his own safety, so he just didn’t. Identically others would tell naysayers how these rules would have made their transition so much easier than suing their school for the right to play on their chosen genders sports team, or parents fighting their child’s school to let them use either a their chosen restroom or the designated teachers bathroom for their child’s safety and psychological wellbeing, how having these guidelines in place would have allowed them to live, be a more complete person, testimonials that will no doubt surface in the coming years.

The former instances were the cases of Jazz and Riley, once Richard, who both spoke out to then 20/20’s Barbra Walters who did pieces on the struggles of transgender children and their families; Jazz who has known from age 6 he was actually a she, who began school where there was a unisex bathroom and unisex sports teams, whose parents later went to court to ensure their daughters right to play on the girls soccer team in middle school, participate in girls cheerleading, be enrolled in school as a girl and have her gender listed in her passport as female. Jazz is fortunate to have a supportive family, and a winning spirit to be able to take the challenges thrown at her along with growing up in an evolving society that is becoming more and more aware of the plight faced by transgender young people.  Richard wasn’t so lucky; though his family quickly recognized something was wrong with him, their journey to accepting and supporting their child’s assertions he actually was a girl took longer, in part because doctors knew less and internally advised teaching him to be a boy. Thus Riley’s fight was more fraught with turmoil, beginning with having to legally change her name; Riley’s school while equally as understanding, was less equipped, as she is older than Jazz, there were no unisex bathrooms and she was forced to use the nurses’ bathroom. Because she had already begun classes years before in her current elementary school as a boy, she was bullied and tormented even as she was interviewed for 20/20 at age 10 almost 11; contrasting to Jazz who made her public transition between pre-school and kindergarten allowing her to be who she feels she is where no one knew her any other way. Obviously our concerned legal expert hasn’t seen the 20/20 special including the segment of little Jazz’s mom talking about her nightmare of growing a beard, facial hair like her dad and her never wanting that or the young man born in a girl’s body who found menstruation unbearable; he has no concept of what it takes for someone like Riley to get out of bed and climb up to where everyone else starts, to be who she is every day watching her twin sister be born in the correct body, spend years being jealous of her sisters toys, clothes, endure the standoffishness of her parents while they came to terms with her reality.

But, surprise, surprise it is once again the conservative values police who’s eyes are about to pop out of their heads; based on the poignancy of the above videos, clearly it can be seen transgender students aren’t declaring themselves as such for something as silly to see the opposite sex naked, aren’t purporting to be transgender in order to perpetrate violence and in fact would love nothing more than to have their anatomy match their mental, emotional psychological view of themselves.  Besides that, what read blooded, typical, American male do we know would identify themselves as something so controversial, seen as freakish, especially according to adult perceptions of high school mindsets, just to see a girl naked when they can go on the internet and see the same thing for free, sneak into the locker room and see a specific person, if that is their goal? Girls looking to avenge themselves of a boy who wronged them are much more likely to just walk into the locker room say their peace, embarrass him, walk out and take whatever punishment the school doles out. In our technology age scorned romances are equally as likely to post a compromising photo taken during their relationship online for the world to see, a phenomenon common to either sex. And god forbid we quell the teen suicide rate particularly high in this already ostracized group of kids, tweens and teens, young people who have had such a hard road up to now, who have such a hard road before them. God forbid we begin to treat gender dysphoria, gender identity disorder, the medical terminology for those who believe themselves to be transgender or born the wrong gender, as a medical condition, not a religious abomination, a severe character flaw, not as a freak of nature, a much shunned mental condition. God forbid a high school student feel safe in using the restroom vs. doing potential damage to their body by not using it, because they are different and feel intimidated; god forbid a student be capable of participating as an athlete in a school sport even though they are a new kind of different we are not yet comfortable with. In fact, it is arguably the adults and not the students who would have troubling handling a transgender individual’s decision. The gentleman conservative representative’s concerns are indicative he fundamentally misunderstands what transgender means, what their needs and motivations are, that it is not an arbitrary choice; many beginning as early as 18 months to 2 years old began stating things like I am a girl, showing a strong, nearly obsessive, preference for the opposite genders clothing and toys. This is not a case of a teen waking up one day saying I think I’ll call myself transgender to get attention, to be cool, to be weird, different, unique to get some perks at school; actually it is a situation carrying far too much shame and struggle for that. It is rather a representation of who they are as a human being. Should the worst ever happen and a student did try such a thing for nefarious reasons, surely they would face severe disciplinary action, probably expulsion; meaning they would no longer be attending in the school district able to blight a program designed to help vulnerable, underrepresented parts of the student body.Practically speaking transgender students trying out for their, opposite from birth, gender’s sports team are unusually small if they are male and unusually bulky or big if they are female translating into far less risk of significant injury based on size discrepancy. Jazz for example is the smallest person on her soccer team; a risk diminished even greater if the person has already been placed on hormone blockers to prevent their biological genders hormones from affecting their body through puberty, a standard practice in aiding transgender kids and teens administered with parental consent. By the time they reach high school significant numbers have already begun taking hormones in an effort to feel like the gender they should be; gain a deeper voice and facial hair for transitioning males, gain breasts and femininity for transitioning females. Psychologists for older transitioning persons often require they live at least a year as their preferred gender before being given mental health clearance for sex reassignment surgery. Further transgender individuals dress, look and act like their preferred gender decreasing the chance of anyone knowing, sans being told, during that all important wrestling match. The transitioning male who spoke to CBS news looked like your average male collage age person, not a potential linebacker, but carrying no hint of feminine characteristics, proving the same is true for those wishing to become male. Opposing examples presented against the new law also make the drastic assumption every transgender student will want to play a contact sport at the high school level, then both make the team and make the grades to remain on said team; those are a lot of assumptions. Continuing it assumes every transgender kid is going to need to use the locker room or be completely naked in aforementioned locker room; maybe by the time they wish to announce their transition, make this decision to alert their school, utilize the law they have already taken their mandatory PE credit. Again it goes back to understanding the motivations of transgender teens in wanting to use something other than their biological sex’s facilities; if you feel you are male you wouldn’t want to be surrounded by girls while changing, if you feel you are female you wouldn’t want to be surrounded by males while changing. Sadly these are people who also intensely hate their bodies because their anatomy doesn’t match who they feel they are, so much so at one time Riley in her own bathroom, at home washed her hair with one hand while using the other to cover her privates with a washcloth, not wanting to look at them, not wanting to deal with them. The last thing they are going to do is flaunt their genitalia; having lived a life in various levels of secrecy, one thing they know how to be is discreet. Even for PE they are unlikely to shower after, will no doubt simply change in and out of their gym clothes, leaving their underwear on; if they do shower, they will do so carefully, utilizing their towel, probably seem modest or shy, because the last thing they want at this level of acceptance is someone freaking out, telling the whole school. Bathrooms boys or girls all have stalls which you can use so that how you use the bathroom doesn’t become a neon sign on your forehead gleaming transgender, leaving the question what is your problem sir?  

Spoken about by CBS news was the plight of transgender kids, the hurdles they faced in being transgender in high school; spoken about was the need for them to live as who they are and have basic safeties, a bathroom to use for instance, without fear of being beat up or who knows what else. Hardly spoken about are the positives of policies like this one mirrored in the video segments above; the panic attacks that stopped for Riley when her principal suggested to her mother she could come to school dressed as a girl, when through the school they were sent to a gender identity specialist, the first time her father took her shopping for a dress, the decision made by Jazz’s parents early on to listen to their child and allow her to be who she was even in public, even at school. With this kind of law, something that should be considered and adopted nationally, they would not have had to fight later for Jazz to play girls soccer; she would not have felt singled out due to her sex, due to a biological mistake, a medical malady. And now at least high school kids in California won’t have to either; they can just focus on the normal stuff for the first time in their life, as if that isn’t difficult enough. Jack becoming Jackie at age 10 right before middle school not only was much happier, much more outgoing; she blossomed socially gaining more play dates than she ever did as Jack, described as the weird boy who played with the girls, prior to her transition. Thus allowing her to make those friendships and connections crucial to emotional health and wellbeing, especially at her tween age, begin creating the network that will help her gain her very important first job, meet people she may someday be able to trust on the next let of her journey, sex reassignment surgery; if nothing else, just have a shot at what every other kid does in terms of making friends, going to school, being part of the student body one less thing effected by their unique gender status.  California’s law is a step in exactly the right direction so no one has to speak to a classroom like Jackie’s sister volunteered to do upon her return to school as a girl; transgender is just a part of a student’s lexicon, announcements of this kind are met with curious questions, clarifications on how they would like to be addressed, referred to, efforts not to offend but to understand instead. Additionally not discussed is what can happen when these rules are not in place; aside from lacking the safety of a simple restroom, beyond feeling extremely self-conscious in a locker room, post gym class there is what happened to one transgender teen who wanted to be considered for prom king; because his school had no such guidelines, no similar procedures, he who had been living as a male for at least the duration of the school year, was placed on the school’s ballot from prom queen by the principal and utterly humiliated.

Schools are likewise to be places of learning, not just reading, writing, arithmetic, science, music, art, but tolerance, seeing things from a different perspective, gaining knowledge about people different from you, facts our legal watchdog conveniently seems to have forgotten.  And, no matter how much we scoff at schools suddenly having to teach, what many presume is basic, manners, morality and civility, in light of bullying, school beatings and cases like Steubenville, we already do teach manners to children on a lower level than we probably should. In kindergarten we teach small ones to keep their hands to themselves, rudimentary conflict resolution, safety protocols about strangers, touching, things they will need to navigate their world; how is any different, any less important? Further students show a remarkable ability to come to terms with new realities proved in 1999 when a male teacher employed a school came back as a woman after undergoing sex reassignment surgery during the summer; overwhelmingly the response was who cares what sex she is. They were outraged the school fired a teacher for answering students curious questions, based on complaints by parents their moral and religious standards were violated; an unsurprising reaction from people with a history of blaming disease and maladies of every kind on sin, illnesses, infirmities of children on the supposed immoral lives of their parents. Utterly unsurprising when the religious members of nearly all our societies lump transgender individuals in with gays, lesbians, bisexuals, anyone with a sexual fetish, who likes to cross dress, particularly if they are male despite science that supports the possibility transgender persons undergo hormone imbalances, mistakes in-utero leading to gender confusion far more than it supports the theory gay people are born gay. Perhaps it’s time parents stopped freaking out and found out exactly who will be using the guidelines, how it will work for the rest of the student body rather than jumping to all the wrong conclusions. Perhaps it’s time they too went back to school and educated themselves on the issue or simply took a cue from their own children who care more about the content of a person’s character than the designation of their anatomy.