OPINION | FRAN ALEXANDER: Transexual students aren’t the ones to be feared as lawmakers attack

Trans students aren’t the threats lawmakers fear

Blurry school hallway / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Blurry school hallway / Getty Images/iStockphoto

When I was a kid, my mother showed no mercy if she construed I was staring at someone who seemed different or who had a disability. She would have taken our former president out behind the barn, likely never to be seen again, for his rude, cruel mockery of a journalist's physical handicap. Such behavior should not be tolerated, but alas, a lot has changed since my mother was in charge of decency.

My parents also taught that advantages in life were not distributed equally, and that possessions or opportunities reflected nothing about personal quality or value. I was often reminded that physical traits like skin, hair or eye colors are things we are born with and over which we have absolutely no choice or control.

When I learned that some of the town's people I'd known all my life, as well as some of my new college friends, were homosexuals and mentioned it to my parents, they shrugged and said, "So what?" These people were friends and their sexual orientation was considered no one else's business because it had nothing whatsoever to do with whether they were decent citizens or caring beings. The only allowed measurement of others required answering one simple question -- how does that person treat other people? You know, Golden Rule kind of stuff.

Behavior-wise, I understood some of the most despicable things people do are name-calling, mockery, bullying, shunning, exclusion and snobbery based on circumstances over which individuals have no choice or control. Skin color, race, ethnicity, gender and even culture and religion are a few of our physical and mental human characteristics. When we don't do well dealing with our fellow hominids, it's because we don't comprehend how all these ingredients are spread over broad spectrums that make each of us unique, therefore different.

Society and its politics go through judgmental fads. Currently it seems our state Legislature is immersed in all things "trans." Claiming, for example, to nobly protect girls in bathrooms from trans girls (although never mentioned, also protecting boys from trans boys), legislators seem determined to take control of this mess simply.

Declaring that the sex listed on birth certificates determines which bathroom door students can enter seems simple enough, until that pesky spectrum of differences we humans possess comes into play. At first blush, it seems foolish to even consider that someone, especially a kid, should be allowed to doubt the evidence that their physical body identifies their gender as being. Unfortunately, gender and sex aren't that simple and neither are humans of any age.

The spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientation is a rainbow of alphabetic letters like LGBTQ+, etc. Lawmakers are acting as if trans students are just misbehaving by being different, rather than understanding that these individuals' sense of who they are is not a choice they made, but a condition in which they exist. That's a huge difference.

Legislators do have a choice, however, in how they respond. At this point they have decided on a conversion-like show of force. Denying transgender students use of bathrooms and "other places ... where people may be in various stages of undress" amounts to punishment for not being like the other kids. Their options seem to be: No. 1, not be trans at school (if they plan to ever use the toilet); No. 2, not go to the toilet; or No. 3, not go to school.

The sad irony of all this is that the last people students need to fear or have protection from are those transitioning to another gender. Trans persons have scant history of bad bathroom behavior. To the contrary, they are the ones most often assaulted. Rep. Mary Bentley, sponsor of the passed House bill, believes "our students [will] feel not only safe, but feel comfortable to be able to use the bathroom they need to when they go to school." All except those very few who are "holding it," of course, or who are being attacked physically and emotionally. If she truly wants to protect anyone, she needs to reread the Golden Rule, do medical research on gender and ask herself and fellow legislators, "Why are we treating these kids this way? Do they have a choice about a physical condition we don't understand? Are we being cruel? Is there another solution?"

This bathroom legislation could come up for consideration in the state Senate's Education Committee as early as Wednesday. It's too late to instill empathy into the Arkansas House, but perhaps the Senate could find another path to the bathrooms short of non-gendered outhouses on school grounds. Contact the senators and ask.

Upcoming Events