Trans kids at school

By , September 28, 2010 10:29 am

A welcoming school busThere have been a few articles recently about trans kids and school. First, the Montreal Gazette had an article which asks “How should schools handle transgender kids“? It covered a family in Florida who was letting their 8-year-old child self-identify as a boy:

“This is just who he is — his brain is just wired in such a way that he’s male. It doesn’t matter what his genitalia is,” said the child’s mom, whose name the Orlando Sentinel agreed to withhold because she wants to protect her child’s identity

Handling things a little differently is a school in Michigan which refused to let a trans boy be crowned prom king, even though the school’s teachers use male pronouns and his chosen name, Oak:

Assistant Superintendent Todd Geerlings told Wood TV, “The ballots gave two choices — vote for a boy for king and a girl for queen.

The comments on each article tell an interesting story, as well.

From the first article, there are definitely a few comments which are obnoxious and/or bigoted: “What do you expect with all your gay pride parades… your minds are deceived and wicked to even think this is normal.”  But they’re outweighed by comments which are either engaging in conversation – such as asking why not let the child experiment without actually calling what’s happening “transitioning” until an older age – and comments which directly support the parents’ choice. Which, quite frankly, surprised me. I was expecting a lot of assholes, and was pleased to find more support than condemnation.

Less soo at SFGate.com, however. Perhaps by virtue of being a bigger paper(?) it has many more comments, and a wider range of opinions. Disappointingly, lots of those opinions are critical of Oak, and/or supportive of the principal’s choice to deny him the king’s crown:

Sorry, it’s Queen Elizabeth because she has a Va-jay jay. King Edward because he has a Schmekel. If Oak wants to be King, get surgery. – misterslugworth

also, if he wants to assume the male role so much, why doesn’t he get a spine and stop being a whiner….real men don’t whine…hahaha!  – skupago

What about if someone is born as an average male, but wants to be perceived as a male that beautiful women are mindlessly attracted to. Is there a special dance that that person can be crowned king of? Is there a special designation they can get that will help them win all sorts of lawsuits and get favored status when there should be none?  This “I wasn’t born how I feel” is BS, and it’s time to stop the “LBGT” crap too. If folks are homosexual, OK, let ‘em be that way and don’t discriminate—but do we really need a zillion subcategories of what “homosexual” is?  – Tazio

To be fair, there are also a solid number of comments supporting Oak and calling out comments like those above as what they are, ranging from ignorant (at best) to bigoted (at worse).

So what’s to be done? First, I think it’s awesome these articles are being written in the first place, and especially awesome they’re (mostly) supportive of the kids in question. Both articles open readers up to questions about how appropriate it is to discuss trans kids in a school environment, presumably in the interest of generating controversy and page hits. But neither article takes the standpoint of being anti-trans, which is refreshing to see.

I’m also heartened by the presence of positive comments. Even in the case of the second article, where the positive comments are not the overwhelming majority, there are still people making an effort to speak up for the trans (and larger queer) community.

I’ve been thinking a lot about being trans in a school environment, particularly as the State of Illinois recently passed an anti-bullying law. I’ll be writing more about that soon, so stay tuned!

2 Responses to “Trans kids at school”

  1. RadDyke says:

    This reminds me a lot of a scenario that we had in my high school a year after I graduated (my little sister was still at the school). A trans boy from…France, I believe it was, transferred into our rich, white suburban school (bordering on a very large, very queer city). The high school had no idea how to handle the idea of him being there. They told him he could only use the staff bathroom, and had to ask a teacher for a key every time he had to pee, rather than letting him use his bathroom of choice.
    It amazes me to see the difference between people at schools and the way that the institution and the family handles situations surrounding trans people, and how the individual chooses to (or not to) get involved.
    Personally, my support is with Oak here. If he was popular enough to get nominated for king, let him be king….

    • Rebecca says:

      Absolutely! There’s such an ingrained cultural expectation that issues around gender are “obviously” controversial, so people behave in a way that lives up to their own expectations of that controversy. And that ends up blowing everything out of proportion…

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