I would respect politicians a lot more if they just said what they mean and owned it. A good example is the transgender bathroom debate.
State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, introduced a bill this week that would require students to use the bathroom corresponding to their body parts unless parents give written permission, in which case they could use a staff toilet or unisex bathroom. Or maybe the Dumpster out back. Whatever. I don’t think it matters much to people like Casperson as long as it’s not near them. Eyew.
It’s pretty clear Casperson finds the whole idea of transgender students using whatever bathroom they feel most comfortable with to be icky.
But of course he didn’t say that. Politicians seldom come right out and say what’s on their minds because they’re smart enough to realize that a lot of the time what’s on their minds sounds thoughtless, mean and small.
Instead Casperson claimed his bill is – weirdly enough – primarily about parental rights: “The fact that they would allow a child to say ‘I don’t want my mom and dad to know’ that they’re taking such a big leap in life … is unacceptable.”
“They” is the state Board of Education, which is in the process of developing a voluntary policy to guide districts on how to make schools safe and supportive for gay and transgender students. (What an awful goal, right?)
The policy as outlined in a February memo isn’t specifically about the bathroom issue, nor does it talk about “allowing” or encouraging students to say, “I don’t want my mom and dad to know.”
In fact it doesn’t deal with parental notification or permission at all. What it says is “The unique needs and concerns of each student should be addressed on a case-by-case basis with a student-centered approach that includes the ongoing engagement of the student, the parent/guardian, as appropriate, and school personnel … per the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).”
It also says districts should “provide appropriate and meaningful family engagement and support. Since parental acceptance and family support are key determinants of LGBTQ student health, student support teams, staff, and community partners should provide resources to help families and students locate information, affirming counseling, and support services.”
And it also mentions this: “Research indicates that LGBTQ students, nationally and in Michigan, are targeted with physical violence and experience a hostile school environment more frequently than their non-LGBTQ peers” and that the state board is “committed to promoting a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment for all students.”
Casperson says his bill is about the well-being of all students, too, or as he put it, “I’m concerned about all the kids.”
But that’s obviously not true. By all students, he clearly means those who aren’t transgender, since his bill – as I mentioned – says that even with parental permission transgender students could only use a unisex bathroom, single bathroom or staff bathroom. And for off-campus activities students could only use facilities that correspond with their biological sex.
In other words, transgender kids won’t be treated equally at all.
But of course he doesn’t come right out and say that.
They seldom do.
Image credit: Mike Licht