Austen Crowder

Silver Linings: Trans Youth Accommodated Despite Politics & IFI

Filed By Austen Crowder | December 19, 2012 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Marriage Equality, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: East Aurora, IFI, Illinois, Illinois Family Institute, Indiana Family Institute, LGBT youth, school accommodations, trans, trans youth, transgender, transgender children

The IFI may be up a creek when it comes to opposing gay rights in Illinois, what with our new Democratic supermajority in state government, but they unveiled a new playbook that's now found success in adhoc-protesters-300x193.jpgEast Aurora, and it's not pretty:

The brouhaha over the creation of a policy that would create protections for transgender and gender nonconforming students in District 131 continued Nov. 30, when over 120 conservative and religious protesters picketed the committee's second meeting, raising safety concerns and much uncertainty over the group's ability to work together. [...] Because of safety concerns, the Department of Justice ordered a police presence at the meeting, according to District 131 Director of Communications Clayton Muhammad.
Pro-transgender speakers were hissed at, booed and shouted down by the protesters, according to sources in the room.
"He points his pen at me, and says, 'This person is trying to force his lifestyle on the children of Aurora,'" she said, emphasizing that he used the wrong pronoun -- "him" -- as he spoke to her.

Stack the meeting with loud protests, jam up the works with angry comments, and falsely claim child safety from the latest, hippest boogeyman on the block: trans kids. Throw in some misgendering of the one trans member of the school board and you've got a recipe for a super-squeaky wheel. The school board dissolved the committee.

The good news is that, for all the ruckus the IFI created, trans kids will still get the help they need.

Sure, IFI got to crow about their crassness on its blog:

Homosexual and 'transgender' activists have cleverly constructed a rhetorical universe in which only they are permitted to speak. They simply assert that their subjective, non-factual beliefs about homosexuality and gender dysphoria are inarguably true and central to their identity and that all dissenting views are hateful, ignorant, mean-spirited bigotry that make them feel 'unsafe.' ...," read the post, written by the IFI's Laurie Higgins.

I would argue that if Mr. Wimmer finds it too hurtful to hear dissenting views about gender dysphoria, then perhaps he shouldn't venture into the public square demanding that public policy reflect his."

But again, this doesn't change the fact that schools are responsible for creating a safe environment for all students. Politics aside, schools tend to be staffed with folks who want to make an honest effort at this. (You don't do what teachers and administrators do for that kind of pay unless you really, really care about kids.) What gets lost in the shuffle of shouting, sandwich boards, and angry anti-gay blog posts is that schools provide accommodation for all sorts of things, all the time, and they never raise a fuss about it.

Take, for example, my childhood accommodations for visual impairment:

  • Lacking in-house resources to accommodate visual impairments, my school contracted out to a services provider.
  • Large-print books were provided to me, even though the option wasn't made available to every student.
  • An Individual Education Profile (IEP) was generated for my issues, indicating to all teachers that I should be placed at the front of the classroom, be provided copies of any transparencies generated in class, and be offered larger-print tests on request. These changes were not advertised to other students and were designed to be unobtrusive as possible.

This process is called "mainstreaming," and its goal is to make unobtrusive changes to a student's environment to allow them to participate in the general school population wherever possible. The school staff, knowing that kids are horrible, horrible people (no, really) and attempts to create a safe, respectful environment for students.

(And yes, I can hear some of you protesting about me comparing trans to a disability all the way up here in Chicago; I don't care. One, crying foul about trans being labeled like a disability is an ablist mode of thinking; and two, a trans kid will need accommodation at school, period, full stop.)

So to review: mainstreaming is one of the more popular models for accommodating studends; trans students require accommodation; and, even when the law says otherwise, school faculty tend to be decent people who want to help kids in need.

Trans kids have been, are being, and will be accommodated in schools.

You won't hear about it on the news but trans kids are already getting this help, possibly even in East Aurora. It is often done under this mainstreaming model; quiet, case-by-case modification tailored to a student's needs and the climate of the school. Whether they agree or not a school cannot say "no" to a student's medical need. (That letter from the doctor saying you're undergoing medical treatment? Yeah, holds a lot of weight.) The goal, again, is to handle the student's need as unobtrusively as possible.

We lose sometimes. We lose easy cases, even. But for each policy that gets destroyed by the eyes, teeth, and grubby hands of anti-LGBTQ groups, a half-dozen other schools are offering reasonable, minimal accommodation for students in transition. Even in rural Indiana (the breadbasket of the KKK!) I knew of schools who were offering accommodations to trans students on a case by case basis. They were successful because they weren't turned into a political football; a kid needed reasonable accommodation, the school did what worked in their environment, and things get done without a big policy meeting.

We can't always beat groups like the Illinois/Indiana Family Institute or MassResistance, who have deep pockets, deep connections, and a lot of pent-up anger over the fact that their favorite scapegoats (the gays! the gays!) are no longer socially acceptable targets. They will fight tooth and nail to keep trans kids from being accepted in the fabric of the school day.

Yet at the same time schools have a far, far bigger problem than a tussle with quasi-religious nutjobs. They have to answer to the courts:

"I was asked to be here based on my expertise on the transgender community," Gray said. "We will continue to have the door open when requested to come back, however, if any transgender youth or children are harmed, we will be back without invitation."

Well said. This, more than anything else, will drive the real, boots-on-the-ground policy when a kid shows up requiring trans-related accommodation.

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