Tricky? Transgender students in high school

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Discussion by: Sjoerd Westenborg
Perhaps some of you have already read about a case in Colorado in which the parents of a transgender girl (born boy, identifies as girl) of six are suing* for her right to use the girl’s bathroom. Considering this is for an elementary school I see no reason why she shouldn’t be allowed to.

It got me thinking ahead though. What about high school? With puberty running it’s course, the showers after PE and the much stronger division between boys and girls, is it even possible to fully accommodate transgender students? I don’t care one bit about the feelings of any angry parents, but, for example, I wouldn’t blame the girls for being uncomfortable with sharing the locker room with someone with a penis. Pardon my bluntness.
My questions are:
-How and how much can high schools accommodate transgender students without causing serious problems? And
-How could schools and parents prevent bullying from their peers and parents?
Note that the focus should be on students who haven’t had gender reassignment surgery and are not taking hormone treatment, as those seem to me to be the toughest category. 
*http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/28/us-usa-transgender-colorado-idUSBRE91R06X20130228

17 COMMENTS

  1. So when do we decide what gender we want to be.
    If forcing a religion on a child is morally wrong (so some tell me) then surely committing a child to a gender at 14 or 15 is wrong – just as much as the child committing to a sexual persuasion is wrong at that age.

    In the meantime it seems reasonable for schools to assume that the ones with penises are heterosexual boys and the others are hetero sexual girls. And that is how the toilets and showers will be arranged.
    Same for 6 year olds.

    • How do you know anyone committed this child to anything? What age is too young to make decisions about who you want to be? No one said this child is getting irreversible surgery, or that she can’t refine how she defines herself as time goes on. I reserve judgement as I really have no clue what the circumstances are but perhaps as society becomes more accepting of these things it wont be so uncommon for young people to identify themselves as sexually different from the norm. I’m pretty sure most people become aware of their sexuality at a pretty young age, at least to some extent.

      In reply to #1 by MickeyDroy:*

      So when do we decide what gender we want to be.
      If forcing a religion on a child is morally wrong (so some tell me) then surely committing a child to a gender at 14 or 15 is wrong – just as much as the child committing to a sexual persuasion is wrong at that age.

      In the meantime it seems reasonable for schools to assume that the ones with penises are heterosexual boys and the others are hetero sexual girls. And that is how the toilets and showers will be arranged.
      Same for 6 year olds.

    • In reply to #1 by MickeyDroy:

      If forcing a religion on a child is morally wrong (so some tell me) then surely committing a child to a gender at 14 or 15 is wrong – just as much as the child committing to a sexual persuasion is wrong at that age.

      I think you got it backwards there. Transgender children aren’t committed to a different gender by their parents, who by default raise their boys as boys and their girls as girls (by the way, how is that not committing them to a gender?). It is only when the child itself starts identifying as being of the other gender that parents will even get the idea of raising it differently. Usually this is followed by a period of scepticism and dialogue with the child, to make sure it isn’t just a phase. Rarely will parents’ initial reaction be delight at their child being different from the norm, with all the difficulties that entails. Quite often no support is given until after an official diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

      Furthermore, supporting transgender children is something completely different from committing them to the other gender. Gender reassignment surgery is out of the question at such a young age, as is hormone therapy. Furthermore, studies (and more and more of them)show that raising a transgender child as were it cisgender can lead to severe mental distress and even trauma.

      In the meantime it seems reasonable for schools to assume that the ones with penises are heterosexual boys and the others are heterosexual girls. And that is how the toilets and showers will be arranged.

      So in addition to making the wrong assumption that everything not male must be female, you’ve decided that it would be most convenient to completely ignore the existence of both homosexuals and the distress transgender children will experience being lumped in with ‘the wrong sex’?

      Homosexuality in the showers seems less problematic to me, since homosexual men still identify as men, and popular to contrary belief they will not ogle and sexually harass every penis in the room. The goes for homosexual women.

      Transgender children in the shower, however, could lead to much more problems. What you’re essentially doing is putting a girl in the men’s room, or vice versa. But with the added discomfort for the transgender child that it is confronted with the fact it’s physical body is not of the gender it identifies with, and that society still treats it as if it were of the ‘wrong’ sex.

      About the bathrooms I’m actually not that worried. Unisex bathrooms are the way to go. Stalls can give plenty of privacy, and the urinals can be placed at the back, so the girls don’t have to pass the boys doing their business and perhaps having their business visibly hanging out.

  2. BTW, why is the whole school privy to this person’s personal medical information? I thought there were HIPPA laws to ensure that this type of shit would not be discussed and become fodder for bullies and haters.

    There is really no way to eliminate bullying. Reducing it is possible, but the nature of the cowardly bully is to needle and hurt in sneaky ways. Adults/teachers often are clueless to the angst that one child can cause another.

    Think about this: two classes, an hour apart. In class period one, a kid throws a paper ball and it hits another kid. In class period two, a kid throws a paper ball and it hits another kid. You, of course admonish the thrower in both cases. But, in one case it was bullying and in the other case it was an accident. Can you tell the difference?

  3. It’s specious to equate ‘forcing’ a gender identity onto a child with indoctrinating them with a faith. While babies are born lacking any religion, they are most definitely either a boy or a girl. The current trend in some circles, to equate gender identification in children with post-pubescent gender attraction, flatters their own PC sensibilities more than truly helping the children in question. It is misguided, unscientific, and harmful.

    To serve a political/cultural agenda, the child is consigned to a future of extensive surgery, permanent hormone treatment, not to mention legal battles over bathroom privileges and other societal friction. The far less invasive and disruptive approach — assisting the child to accept their physical sex, with eventual sex-change as a fall-back, is derided. Ironically, it’s the allegedly open-minded people who are imposing a gender identity — in this instance the opposite of the physical sex — upon a child.

    A six year-old boy is simply too young to have concluded definitively that he is not really a boy. While plausible genetic or embryological factors for gender identity issues may exist (e.g. PCOS, CAH), none have been confirmed. No less plausible (nor exclusive) are environmental factors. We know that children pattern their constructs of relationships & roles on their parents’ behavior and interactions. The parents in these cases, however, seemingly eager to wash their hands of any implied ‘guilt’, seek out pandering therapists who assure them that their child ‘was just born that way.’

    To even assert that someone is ‘a girl born into the body of a boy’ strays right through pseudo-science into mysticism. Barring putative genetic or embryological factors, and denying any environmental ones, what is inferred is some ethereal gender-geist that descends to inhabit the zygote upon conception.

    As for resolving the school lavatory conflict, the boy who thinks he’s a girl must be told that bathroom use is determined by plumbing only.

    • Excellent points. I (for some reason) thought that the youngster involved had Klinefelter’s syndrome. A leap that I should not have made (but did none the less). Klinefelter’s would be a medical condition and (in my opinion) no one’s business except the child, their parents, and their doctors.

      In reply to #5 by matt.cavanaugh.262:

      It’s specious to equate ‘forcing’ a gender identity onto a child with indoctrinating them with a faith. While babies are born lacking any religion, they are most definitely either a boy or a girl. The current trend in some circles, to equate gender identification in children with post-pubescent gender attraction, flatters their own PC sensibilities more than truly helping the children in question. It is misguided, unscientific, and harmful.

      To serve a political/cultural agenda, the child is consigned to a future of extensive surgery, permanent hormone treatment, not to mention legal battles over bathroom privileges and other societal friction. The far less invasive and disruptive approach — assisting the child to accept their physical sex, with eventual sex-change as a fall-back, is derided. Ironically, it’s the allegedly open-minded people who are imposing a gender identity — in this instance the opposite of the physical sex — upon a child.

      A six year-old boy is simply too young to have concluded definitively that he is not really a boy. While plausible genetic or embryological factors for gender identity issues may exist (e.g. PCOS, CAH), none have been confirmed. No less plausible (nor exclusive) are environmental factors. We know that children pattern their constructs of relationships & roles on their parents’ behavior and interactions. The parents in these cases, however, seemingly eager to wash their hands of any implied ‘guilt’, seek out pandering therapists who assure them that their child ‘was just born that way.’

      To even assert that someone is ‘a girl born into the body of a boy’ strays right through pseudo-science into mysticism. Barring putative genetic or embryological factors, and denying any environmental ones, what is inferred is some ethereal gender-geist that descends to inhabit the zygote upon conception.

      As for resolving the school lavatory conflict, the boy who thinks he’s a girl must be told that bathroom use is determined by plumbing only.

    • In reply to #5 by matt.cavanaugh.262:

      You make many good points, but you miss the essential one. If a ‘female’ has CAH, Turner’s syndrome, or any variety of dispositions, or any reason that they are (without hormones or surgery) mistaken for a male, using the women’s bathroom is problematic. It’s just like using the bathroom with a guy. People have the right to dress however they want. If a trap (to use internet parlance) walks into a men’s bathroom, that’s a problem. Bathroom segregation is designed for social mores, not biological absolutes.

      You also wander into strawmen. There are mystical explanations for everything. Transgenderism is not predicated on them. ‘Boy trapped in a girl’s body’ is a self-contradiction and common cliche, but not the basis for contemporary understanding transgenderism.

      A six year-old boy is simply too young to have concluded definitively that he is not really a boy.

      Is that your opinion as a doctor trained in dysmorphic conditions, or are you just making stuff up?

  4. There should be no compulsory nudity, as in forced collective showers. It’s monstrous and I can’t believe we tolerate it. Any arguments as to how we handle transgenderism with forced nudity is ludicrous. There are a million reason’s not to force people to expose their bodies. Transgenderism is not the only medical condition complicated by forced public nudity (micopenis, scars, psychological, etc)..

    A person’s medical history is private. Public restrooms do not involve public exposure of the genitals. There is no issue here.

  5. @crookedshoes

    The Reuters article cited is not specific, but it does not appear that Klinefelter’s is present in the Colorado case. (Which, of course, should be tested for at the outset.) The film XXY offers a very nuanced treatment of the myriad issues involved, evoking great empathy, although the protagonist does not match a diagnosis of Klinefelter’s.

  6. I went to jr. high and high school with a victim of the John Money Protocols.He had a hot girlfriend, played on the football team, and had to use the girls restroom. It ridiculous and needlessly degrading.

    Trans people get socially isolated, and this creates a paradox when contemplating their social issues. Post Modernism and academic fraud have also done damage to our understanding of this issue, and I am very comfortable saying we no idea what is going on, and we need data. In the meantime, let’s create as little suffering as possible (especially for afflicted people) and try to foster a better world.

  7. @ meme

    I mentioned CAH as it’s been strongly correlated to lesbianism, and postulated as a factor. To my knowledge, no similar pre-natal factors contributing to gender dysphasia have been proposed. Yet, despite lack of a predictive model, it’s deemed immutable, even as young as six. No, I’m not a doctor, but have read summaries of studies that indicate sex identity can be in flux at an early age. I’d be eager to read clinical studies to the contrary.

    While I do believe sexual identity is set in stone no later than puberty, and feel that society should accept people of all orientations, I do not need to trample science to serve that goal.

    It’s not a straw man argument to acknowledge that the most common explanation today for a person’s sexual orientation/identification is ‘they were just born that way.’ I would welcome a more precise wording of the “contemporary understanding of transgenderism”, preferably one prefaced by the presumed cause(s).

    When we have a child whose body is male, but who’s self-identity is female, something’s gotta give. Everyone agrees that the objective is to get the two in sync. Yet on purely ideological grounds, the less invasive of two possible remedies is condemned.

    I’m largely steering wide of the logistics of the bathroom conflict, for which you and others have offered practical work-arounds, as I see such cases as merely staged battles to impose a particular ethos on the general public.

    • In reply to #11 by matt.cavanaugh.262:

      @ meme

      While I do believe sexual identity is set in stone no later than puberty, and feel that society should accept people of all orientations, I do not need to trample science to serve that goal.

      I agree with your assessment. Science is under attack with this issue. I co-authored a grant proposal for education programs aimed at normalizing transgenderism. My colleagues were anti-science PoMo fetishists. They do see science as an obstacle to creating a better world, and I was nearly denounced for asserting the need for normalization was backed by science. Our contributions were incompatible (… but I won). The ironic thing was, if gender is just a social-construct, then transexuals are simply hysterical and their identity irrational, which is more than uncharitable. It’s marginalizing and discrediting.

      As with homosexuals, our understanding has changed from it being a deviant neurosis to a banal variation in our species. With only 6% of people being gay, in the pre-industrial world a gay person likely to live their whole life within 20 miles of where they were born would probably not meet another gay person. Hence homosexuality was not considered an existential matter but a behavior. Transgenderism is undergoing a new recognition. This is largely due to globalization, a population of 7billion, a virtually non-existent infant mortality rate, and increased scientific observation.

      I would welcome a more precise wording of the “contemporary understanding of transgenderism”, preferably one prefaced by the presumed cause(s).

      What I settled on is dysmorphia, which is a well studied phenomenon with therapy protocols. This includes anorexics and people who need to have a healthy limb removed. It has problems such as asociality, anhedonia, self-harm, and suicide. We can and do see this in children, and therapy is given accordingly. We do know the cause of these problems, and you are questioning the cause of the cause. That’s a worthwhile investigation but not needed for therapy or social change. I personally don’t care about the cause of the cause, but I do care about the cause of the cause of the cause, so I’m sympathetic with your curiosity..

      Dr. John Money was an evil bastard from Johns Hopkins University. He found an identical twin boy with a botched circumcision and convinced the parents to perform a sex change. He then gave false reports that the experiment was a success. This was uncovered, and we learned a lot. The subject lived in hell and committed suicide. As a child the subject expressed gender dyphoria, proving that children have a sexual identity. His dysphoria was biologically driven. Therefor, children have a biologically driven sexual identity, including me and you. It’s just not noteworthy over 99% most of the time (cisgendered). When it is malign it can be diagnosed, and there is no reason to doubt it has a biological cause, since we know sexual identity is biologically driven.

      When we have a child whose body is male, but who’s self-identity is female, something’s gotta give. Everyone agrees that the objective is to get the two in sync. Yet on purely ideological grounds, the less invasive of two possible remedies is condemned.

      That’s false. It’s based on therapy protocols for dysmorphics and gender dysphoria.

      I’m largely steering wide of the logistics of the bathroom conflict, for which you and others have offered practical work-arounds, as I see such cases as merely staged battles to impose a particular ethos on the general public.

      It’s more that it’s a cause that will inevitably win, like racial equality, sexual equality, and gay rights. The anti-science/PoMo/PC camp has been very effective at hitching their wagon to this pony.

      • In reply to #14 by This Is Not A Meme:

        Thank you for your detailed reply.

        A question: Is one therapeutic approach simply to leave the body be and have the person dress and act as the other sex? I’m curious as, although I’ve only been personally acquainted with two transgenders, both were eager to complete their surgical reassignment.

        Your inclusion of gender identity under “dysmorphia” raises some questions. I have a dear friend who for a period served as therapist to dangerously emaciated anorexics and bulimics in their early- to mid-twenties. (Sadly, they don’t often live past that age.) These women’s perceived body images — that they were too fat — were clearly in error. My friend’s approach was centered on first getting them to recognize the incongruity. No sane person would “accept” an anorexic’s body identity, much less advocate surgery to accommodate it. Why is gender dysmorphia not treated similarly? (And perhaps I’m missing the clinical distinction between dysmorphia and dysphoria.)

        It should go without saying that we are obligated to provide the best possible treatment and support for a person with any condition, even if we haven’t yet identified the “cause of the cause.” But that leads to blunt-object remedies, chemo as one example. The search for the ultimate cause(s) should proceed apace; for, once identified, we can better target the response. For gender dysmorphia, possible factors include:

        1) ‘fixed’ genetic (e.g. Klinefelter’s; something akin to the s.g. “gay gene”)

        2) pre-natal, hormonal affects

        3) neuro-transmitter abnormalities

        4) environmental influences

        In the first instance, and to some extent the second, the individual is ‘none of the above’, and the focus should be on facilitating the best possible “fit”, with possible reassignment mapped out as early as possible. As you’ve mentioned, public awareness should also be promoted.

        If neuro-transmitters are at play, could they not be addressed much easier than an hormonal/surgical remedy?

        In the final case, (having ruled out the others) should not an approach similar to that with anorexia offer the best long-term outcome? Interweb trawling, I found this at the UK NHS:

        “The Endocrine Society found that 75-80% of children who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria before they reached puberty did not have the condition after puberty. Therefore, endocrine treatment is not recommended until after puberty, when a diagnosis of gender dysphoria can be confirmed.”

        http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Gender-dysphoria/Pages/Treatment.aspx

        My fear is that, in a misguided, PC attempt to enforce “acceptance”, those 75-80% are being used as pawns.

        I’m familiar with the Money-Reimer debacle, which was pure Lysenkoism, but don’t see that it rules out any of the therapies proposed above.

        “The ironic thing was, if gender is just a social-construct, then transexuals are simply hysterical and their identity irrational, which is more than uncharitable. It’s marginalizing and discrediting.”

        LOL. Tackling the propositions of a post-modernist is worse than herding cats. At least the cats corporeally exist.

        “It’s more that it’s a cause that will inevitably win, like racial equality, sexual equality, and gay rights. The anti-science/PoMo/PC camp has been very effective at hitching their wagon to this pony.”

        Overall, I see the ardent polemicists on both extremes lustily grinding their axes on this subject, at the expense of the individuals in question. My only concern is to understand as best as possible, and help the people involved as best as possible. It’s a complex issue, and a lively debate is meet and good. I’m glad it can be conducted at RDF without rancor.

        • In reply to #15 by matt.cavanaugh.262:

          Tackling the propositions of a post-modernist is worse than herding cats. At least the cats corporeally exist.

          When I stumbled on this I laughed – loudly and without thought to the sleeping members of my home. May I add this to a T-Shirt or some such item?

          • J
        • In reply to #15 by matt.cavanaugh.262:

          In regards to the difference between dysphoria and dysmorphia and more widely why gender non-conformity or transsexualism is not treated as a dysmorphic disorder.
          Dysmorphic disorders are characterized with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors including repetitive tasks. Gender dysphoria is characterized by persistent feelings of incongruence between experienced and expressed gender and disassociation from ones primary or secondary sex characteristics with the desire to be rid of them while desiring to have the primary or secondary sex characteristics of the other sex as well as desiring to be the other gender and that they fall into typical thought patterns of that sex. Also, these symptoms must create significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of function. While, this alone sounds like they could be grouped a few key differences cause them to be separated.

          Firstly, body dysmorphic disorder begins in adolescence or young adulthood and show strong signs of environmental and psychological causes, whereas transgender feelings, as reported by transgender adults, teens, and children, begin in early childhood. Environmental and psychological theories on its cause have consistently failed to be predictive and while not yet conclusive current research suggests prenatal neurological causes.

          Side note on persistence: While childhood gender dysphoria only continues to adult hood in between 12 and 27% of cases, adolescents, while no formal study has been undertaken, in small sample followups 100% of gender dysphoric teens had persistence into adulthood
          This is why standards of care per WPATH encourage exploration in children, giving them safe ways to try expressing their differing gender feelings without feeling like they can’t go back such as, “only on vacation.” To give the child the opportunity to potentially resolve any gender confusion before adolescence.

          One of the key differences between dysmorphic disorders and gender identity disorder (using ICD-10 terminology) is that dysmorphic disorders respond to psychopharmacology and cognitive behavioral therapy, whereas gender identity disorder does not. Secondly, whereas surgical intervention in dysmorphic disorders only leads the subject to find a new flaw to obsess over, in the case of gender identity disorder there are significant decreases in symptoms of gender dysphoria.

          Finally, BDD Sufferers show abnormal visual processing when viewing their own face, others’ faces, and inanimate objects, those with gender dysphoria do not. Those suffering gender dysphoria are acutely aware that they are not, physically men/women, but the sense that they should be or meant to be persists and is only alleviated by social and, if necessary, medical, transition.

  8. Unisex bathrooms are problematic. Personally, I would feel unsafe going into a room with stalls if men are around and no women. It’s like being in an elevator alone with a strange man after midnight. My brain would go on rape alert. If the bathroom is a self contained locking room with one toilet and sink similar to what many stores now have, OK I’m fine with unisex bathrooms. Unless it is swim class, there is no reason for getting undressed in a group. The last I heard, kids generally don’t shower after gym class.

    Sorry, but if the building doesn’t have a self contained bathroom, I think bathrooms need to stay the way they are.

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