2017-08-13

Here we go again...

It's bad enough coming from assorted strangers online or newspaper editorialists who have made no secrets of their biases. Somehow, though, it's just worse when it comes from people you know and want to respect. It stings, it feels like a betrayal, and... it's just disappointing. Especially since this is someone I've tried to get through to before and hoped I'd met with at least a little success. Especially since this is one of those people who ought to be spreading God's love, choosing instead to parrot ignorance and propagate hatred.

What set things off this time were the unsympathetic remarks that were shared with the following link: Private School Sued for Making 8-Year-Old Transgender Girl Wear Boy's Uniform and Use Boys' Bathroom. The article itself is worth a read and maintains a respectfully neutral tone (though, as is unfortunately typical, the user comments don't get anywhere near either respectful or neutral, or reasonable, for that matter). Here, though, I'll be quoting the remarks (the ones posted with the link to the article, not the comments on the article itself), piece by piece, in their entirety, and addressing my responses to the poster as "you".

I don't get the impression that there was any deliberate malice or intent to harm behind it. That's better than nothing, I suppose, but that's never been enough to make such things harmless. Just as obsession doesn't necessarily produce curiosity, age doesn't necessarily produce wisdom.

I was wavering about whether to actually post this, and I'll keep it anonymous, but there are things that need to be said, and besides, I need to vent.

I'm sorry, people, but this is getting way out of hand.
I can't dispute that something is getting way out of hand. I just don't agree with you on what it is. My version has more to do with people going out of their way to get upset about things that don't affect them, especially when they spread harmful misinformation in the process.

First of all, it's a PRIVATE school. They can send him home and refund the tuition and not accept him.
Well, no, they can't. A private school—particularly a for-profit, non-religious private school like this one—is a business, which, at least in California, means that baseless discrimination is, in addition to being the wrong thing to do in any case, quite explicitly illegal (though I tend to think things like "equal protection under the law" ought to cover that already). Not to mention that the school reportedly advertised itself as "nondiscriminatory" regardless.

Of course, there's more to not discriminating than simply refraining from kicking people out for no good reason. According to the lawsuit, the school's failings included denying Nikki's request to wear a girls' uniform and refusing even to use her preferred name or pronouns (a refusal, I've noticed, that you seem to have decided to imitate). Aside from being flat-out disrespectful, that's a failure to follow California law. It really is that simple.

Second of all, his "feeling" like a girl does not trump the rights of the actual girls who ARE girls. They should not have to share their bathroom, lockerroom or sports with someone who just "feels" like a girl.
If anything, they shouldn't have to share their bathroom, locker room, or sports with people they can't get along with. That has a history of causing problems. Trans kids, though? Not so much.

Regardless, it's unfortunate that we don't really have the language to describe gender identity properly. Calling it a "feeling" isn't entirely inaccurate, but it is woefully inadequate. A "conviction" or "knowing" might come closer, but those aren't quite right, either. Whatever it is, though, it is. Transgender girls are "actual girls who ARE girls". The only distinction from non-transgender girls, other than the unjustifiable excess of hostility they face, is some anatomy kept out of sight that simply doesn't come into play when interacting with other people in a public setting. Particularly with puberty still a few years away.

And even if you assume it's the "just a phase" that detractors like to claim for kids at that age, so what? If it is, they'll grow out of it, no harm done. Trying on different identities is part of how kids explore the question of who they are. Denying them the ability to do so, whether deliberately or just by allowing them to internalize the idea that gender is sex is destiny is absolute, is a good way to produce discontent adults who still don't know the answer but have forgotten how to ask the question. I should know. I've been there.

Huh. I had no idea admitting that would sting so much. I guess I'm more bitter than I realized, even if it's not really anyone's fault except society at large. But that's exactly why it's so important to counter these wrong ideas.

Third of all, I would call Child Protective Services and ask them to look into child abuse.
What for? What kind of abuse are you trying to suggest might be happening? Not being jackasses to their kid? From where I'm sitting, that's kind of the opposite of abuse. And I'd have to guess you didn't click through to the linked Orange County Register article that mentions Nikki's mother lost a transgender student to suicide and wanted better for her own child. If not wanting a dead child makes her a bad parent, then being a good parent isn't worth aspiring to.

It perplexes me that some of the people most prone to shrieking "think of the children" would rather try to beat the queer out of their children, or send them to be tortured in what are euphemistically called "reparative therapy" camps, or throw them out in the streets, or, yes, even see them dead, than let them be who they are. I wouldn't accuse you of this, and I doubt that you'd do the same if you were actually in that situation, but it happens. All too often, it happens. That's not love. That's not even humane.

Regardless, making indirect accusations of abuse and threatening to sic the authorities on them comes across as a peculiarly extreme reaction to a situation you have no connection to and know hardly anything about. Borderline slanderous, even, and if someone actually made that call, that would strike me as harassment. I doubt the authorities would appreciate having their time wasted, either. So what gives?

It might make more sense to ask you directly instead of just venting to an anonymous blog that you'll probably never read. Maybe I don't know how to bring it up without it sounding like an accusation and a personal attack. Maybe I'm still more afraid of confrontation than I'd like to admit. Or maybe I'm apprehensive of getting an answer that would just erode what respect I still have for you.

Fourth of all, there are many 8 year olds who don't know nor understand transgenderism, and many parents who don't care to teach it to their kids.
This is a complete non-argument, and it's not difficult to see why. Just try replacing the word "transgenderism" with, oh, let's say, "music" or "history". That's no justification for dropping them from the curriculum. Or consider "adoption". Should the school not accept any adopted children because of parents who don't want to talk about it? How about "diabetes"? Surely, some parents not caring to teach their kids about insulin shots isn't a valid reason for keeping them out of school.

Besides, anything they don't know or understand, they can learn. Should learn, even. That's the whole point of school. Isn't it?

In any case, though, there's really very little they actually need to understand. They have a classmate who wants to be called Nikki, referred to as she/her, and wear customarily feminine clothing. Therefore, they should call their classmate Nikki, refer to her as she/her, and not give her crap about wearing customarily feminine clothing. It's that simple. This really isn't that different from how they (ought to) know better than to call little Bobby "Blobby", or "Fred", or "Sally", or even "Robert" if that upsets him, or to dress him up in tutus or overalls unless he's agreed to it.

Of course, children at that age tend to follow the examples of authority figures, and even if they're certain an authority figure is dead wrong, it's not going to be easy for them to stand up against that. So if the faculty and staff refuse to call Nikki by her name, insist on referring to her as he/him, and force her to wear a boy's uniform, they're causing a difficulty that wouldn't otherwise have existed. There's no excuse for that, particularly in a school that claims to have accommodated older transgender students without incident.
They have rights, too, and should consider a suit against his parents.
What would the basis of this hypothetical lawsuit be? What rights of theirs are being violated? Their convenience isn't a right. Living in a bubble of ignorance isn't a right, nor is making their children live in one (not to mention that it sounds more like abuse than anything Nikki's parents might have done). Neither is forestalling questions from their children that they might find awkward. Or forcing other people to live only in ways that they approve of. Or being sheltered from anything that might conflict with their worldview. There's no right that guarantees people won't experience situations that make them feel uncomfortable, either. Just consider every election campaign ever for proof of that.

It's easy enough to claim, and even to believe, that your rights have been violated. But it's meaningless if you can't explain which rights or how they've been violated.

Come to think of it, it also troubles me that, while I doubt you're aware of this or doing it deliberately, many of the insubstantial talking points you're repeating come right out of straight-up hate groups that misappropriate the name of "Christian" to feign legitimacy. That doesn't automatically invalidate the arguments (it's the lack of merit in the arguments themselves that does that), but it is worrisome and worth being wary of.

Again, it might make more sense to ask you about your reasoning directly. But, again, I'm not entirely sure I want to know the answer.

Before anybody flames me (and I'm sure I'll get a couple folks unfriending me, your loss, BTW), I get it. It must be HORRIBLE to grow up living in the wrong body.
I can't imagine that you do "get it". Especially since you're consistently calling her "him". And especially given how dismissive you just were of "someone who just 'feels' like a girl". Do people have to go through a laundry list of surgeries before you'll consider taking them seriously? Because, aside from that being kind of personal and none of your business, that's not what it means to be transgender. The "trapped in the wrong body" trope is just an oversimplification that has had the misfortune of being incorrectly taken as a universal truth.

Actually, let's make this a little more personal. I know you've struggled with depression. I also know that there are no small number of people who would dismiss that as "just 'feeling' sad". Or say that you should stop whining about it when there are people with "actual" reasons to be upset. Does that invalidate your experience? Does that make depression any less real and legitimate? Of course not. And merely acknowledging in passing that it must be horrible doesn't do anything to excuse that kind of rhetoric.
I feel very sorry for all of them (except Caitlyn who I think did it for the publicity that he no longer got for athletics)...
She may not have minded the publicity, but to call it the only or even the primary reason seems like a massive stretch, particularly considering that your reaction is positively supportive compared to many. At least you didn't call her "Bruce" or use insults.
...but we can't change every school, every college, every restaurant, every public place for the feelings of a few.
I fail to see how simply letting people be involves such a problematic change. In many cases, literally all you have to do is nothing. And the fewer "a few" are, the less likely it is to affect you at all, so that argument doesn't hold any water, either.

Besides that, we absolutely can change "every school, every college, every restaurant, every public place". I know this because it's happened before. Remember the Americans with Disabilities Act? Accessibility ramps and handicapped parking and, yes, accessible bathrooms, too, used to be unheard of. Now we mostly take them for granted, even in places where fairly drastic changes had to happen to make that possible.

Growing up, I knew guys that acted like girls and wore pink, and yes, they got bullied. Back in the day, it still wasn't right, but it happened, and my generation will own that. But few of my generation want to change our entire society just for the "rights" of the few.
To start with, there's a significant portion of your generation—and mine too, to be fair—that's not showing any signs of willingness to "own that", much less learn from it.

In any case, what (some of) your generation wants doesn't actually matter. It simply isn't relevant to what's right and wrong. Dare I remind you that, not so long ago, there was a generation that tore the nation in two when it didn't want to "change our entire society" by giving up slavery, even though the institution would not likely have survived much longer anyway at that point?

Or, on a lighter note, how about the Internet? I'm sure there are many in your generation who didn't want to "change our entire society" with all this online and networked stuff. And, yes, there are legitimate concerns about security and privacy that shouldn't be ignored. But the Internet is here, like it or not, and it's not going anywhere any time soon. It's here, and we have to take that reality into account. The naysayers are free to avoid it as best they can, but they can't take it away from the rest of us, and they would be wrong to try.

In any case, rights are rights, no scare quotes needed, and it doesn't matter how few people they impact. And like I've already said, you're drastically overstating the scope of this change. All the average person needs to do is to refrain from giving other people crap, which is nothing more than they ought to be doing in the first place.

Too many schools have bent over backwards by giving them their own bathroom, and they're still not happy.
Well, no, children generally aren't happy when they're singled out for unusual treatment, particularly when it isolates them from their peers. And giving people "their own bathroom" isn't necessarily a good thing. Some might prefer it, but it reminds me more of a time and place when bathroom signs read "ladies", "men", and (as far away from the ladies as possible) "colored". I hope you can appreciate why that's problematic.

Regardless, the way things more typically go, assuming they go at all, tends toward "you may must use the out-of-the-way staff bathroom (and don't you dare be late to class even though we've just tripled your travel time)", which hardly amounts to having "bent over backwards".

I don't want my grandson going to the bathroom with a girl, nor a girl going to his bathroom.
Why not? I don't mean this as a rhetorical question, either. Take some time to think about why you don't want that, then put some serious consideration how much validity your reasons have.

We didn't have gendered bathrooms in the states in the first place until shortly after the first World War, when men tried to force women out of the workplace, specifically factories, by designating all the indoor plumbing as "men only" and directing the women to outhouses. Courts and lawmakers didn't stand for that, but what we got in the aftermath were separate but (often not) equal facilities. Today, they're a relic of a time when it was often still considered scandalous for men and women to mingle in any public areas. Seriously, men and women even had separate entrances to businesses and separate public parks. It was nonsensical then, and it's nonsensical now. Even if you won't consider the people for whom a stark choice between "men" and "women" is problematic, we're well overdue for the widespread availability of unisex restrooms. That's especially true for children who don't yet have the sex drive or more pronounced differentiation that comes with puberty.

Based on what you said, though, you ought to be upset with the school for wanting Nikki to use the boys' room, shouldn't you? If your grandson were a student there, the school would be telling him to go to the bathroom with a girl, and a girl to go to his bathroom. Only you evidently can't see it that way, because you refuse to see her as anything other than a confused boy.

However, there's a more serious issue lurking here. "I don't want my grandson going to the bathroom with a gay kid, nor a gay kid going to his bathroom." "I don't want my grandson going to the bathroom with a Mexican, nor a Mexican going to his bathroom." "I don't want my grandson going to the bathroom with a poor kid, nor a poor kid going to his bathroom." Are you starting to see the problem? Or do I have to add, "I don't want my grandson to have to interact with, or even look at, his inferiors"? Because it feels like that's what's really behind that kind of sentiment, more often than not.

Besides which, I've gone over this before. The paranoia over the bathroom issue is a red herring. Despite how much people get worked up over it, there's nothing there. Anything you're afraid of is just as illegal, immoral, or both, no matter how law or custom treat transgender people. Anyone already willing to defy law and conscience to do something nefarious isn't going to care where trans people are allowed, and any attempt to claim otherwise is just an empty, if disturbingly effective, scare tactic.

I don't care what anybody says, gender is binary.
This is objectively and demonstrably false. Just to begin with, there are countless societies that have recognized (at least) a third gender (and often more). You might as well say, "I don't care what anybody says, the only two colors are red and blue." That wouldn't stop orange and yellow and green and violet from existing, even if you decided to categorize them as shades of red and blue. And how would you explain black and white, not to mention infrared and ultraviolet?

Besides, even insisting on a strict binary doesn't do anything to rule out switching sides. There are plenty of binary-identified trans people.
God made it that way...
Says who? The Christian Bible doesn't even touch on gender identity, unless the people described using terms that are generally translated as "eunuch" count. And if they do, that would seem to contradict your point, not support it.
...and the very, very few instances where a child is born with the physical characteristics of both...
See, now you're either mixing up (mental or sociological) gender with (anatomical) sex, which suggests that you just don't know what you're talking about, or, worse, that you're deliberately ignoring the difference, which smacks of a malice that I would prefer not to attribute to you. Either way, you've already contradicted your own "gender is binary" claim. Besides which, research into brain structure suggests that being transgender has an objective biological basis, making it also a case of being "born with the physical characteristics of both", just in a way that's less readily observable than ambiguous genitalia, which is itself more common than you seem to think.
...the doctors will ask the parents to make a choice as to what to cut out.
That's a problem in and of itself, and not just because any surgery carries risks, or because it would mean brain surgery for some people.

Perhaps you've heard of the David Reimer case? The short version is that, after one of a pair of twin boys suffered a botched circumcision, psychologist John Money convinced the parents to remove the rest of his boy bits and raise him as a girl. The theory was that if he was given girl-like anatomy (and eventually hormones) and treated as a girl, he'd identify as a girl, just as if he'd been born that way. But he never did, no matter how they tried to force the issue. Gender identity, we've since realized, is largely fixed by the time of birth, and trying to impose a change simply doesn't work. Money's interventions traumatized not just David, but also his twin brother, and they each ended up dying to suicide before reaching the age of 40.

While David wasn't intersex, intersex people (usually) have gender identities, too. But it's not as though the doctors or parents can ask them about it at birth. So what happens if they make the wrong choice? How are they supposed to have any idea how to choose? Why should they have to choose?

Which reminds me of a comment I once saw on a Cracked article. User GothSpice wrote, in part...
My friend Arcy was born intersex. She identifies as a woman, though she was born with various degrees of both genitalia. She went through hell, and still does. The doctor at her birth told her mother to "choose".

She chose wrong, and to this day steadfastly denies that my friend was born with a vagina as well as a penis, even though she bears the scars of her surgery to seal her vagina to this day.
"She chose wrong". Her child is still paying for both her mistake and her refusal to own up to it. If you don't find that tragic, I don't know what to say to you.

There's a good reason the United Nations has condemned genital surgery performed on intersex children as a medically unnecessary human rights violation that causes "terrible physical, psychological and emotional pain".

I get the impression that you made that remark in passing and weren't thinking about the implications of it. But I want to be absolutely clear about this, and so I won't mince words or try to spare your feelings here. To claim that it is good and proper to "make a choice as to what to cut out", at birth, when the person most affected has no say in the matter, is to advocate child abuse.

But let's get back to what was stated outright and not just accidentally implied.

And if you think I'm a complete cad, I say let HIM grow up wearing rainbows, unicorns and pink socks...
If nothing else, it does seem arrogant of you to presume to know a complete stranger better than her family or therapist or even herself. Additionally, the unnecessary emphasis on the pronoun comes across as petulant, petty, and just plain mean. Look, whether you agree with the correctness of calling her "her" or not, you know Nikki doesn't like being called "him", yet you insist on doing it anyway, and worse, on doing it belligerently. So much for deciding to "own" that bullying "wasn't right". You're also completely missing, or deliberately ignoring, the distinction between identity (who a person is) and expression (how a person behaves).

Also, it feels like you're taking this strangely personally. Why does it matter so much to you that Nikki be a boy? What drives you to insist, without knowing anything about her situation beyond a few lines in a news article, that she must be wrong about being a girl?

That said, it's at least a step in the right direction to "let [her] grow up wearing" whatever she wants, but do keep in mind that the school, allegedly, wouldn't even do that.
...and when he's 21, he can do whatever he wants to do with his body.
By then, it's... I don't want to say "too late", because I don't want to crush anyone's hopes, and it's never too late for anyone to be themselves. People have successfully transitioned late in their lives, and the available options keep improving. However, there's no question that withholding care in adolescence, in cases when the need is already known, makes things a lot more problematic. Without hormone blockers, puberty's not going to hold off until 21, or 18, or even 16, and I'm not getting the impression that you'd be fine with those, either. It's far less trouble to get puberty to go right the first time than it is to try to reverse its effects and go through another puberty in adulthood.

This isn't even about what she wants to do with her body, though, and you seem to be unable to recognize that. For now, Nikki just wants to be treated as a girl. That's it.

I'm getting the impression that you think of "transgender" (a broad term that, roughly speaking, involves a disconnect between body and self) strictly in terms of "transsexual" (a narrow term focused specifically on going through feminizing or masculinizing surgery; due to the state of one's private parts being generally none of anyone's business, and to it not being a necessary part of being transgender, the use of this term is generally discouraged, though some people to whom it applies do prefer it). That would at least explain why you seem to scoff at the idea of a transgender child. But it's just another clue that you don't actually understand what you're talking about. Maybe it's the Dunning-Kruger effect in action: The less people know about something, the less likely they are to realize how little they know.

Come to think of it, though, didn't you say something about...
...the very, very few instances where a child is born with the physical characteristics of both the doctors will ask the parents to make a choice as to what to cut out.
Yeah, that. It sounds alarmingly like you're trying to say that it's perfectly fine to "cut out" parts of a newborn, and hope that everything works out just fine, well before they're able to understand what's going on or communicate their preferences... while, at the same time, acting as though a simple pronoun is too much to ask before someone turns 21 and finishes doing "whatever [they want] to do with [their] body". Or, more likely, whatever you've decided they're supposed to want to do with it. I'm afraid it's sounding uncomfortably like you have an unhealthy obsession with other people's genitalia.

On the other hand, you also referred to Caitlyn as "he", and she's been through all the surgeries you could possibly expect and then some (I think? Like I've said, it's really none of my business), not to mention what I'd assume is the best plastic surgery money can buy. After that, I'm left wondering whether anything's good enough to convince you to extend a little courtesy, or if you'd rather just keep coming up with excuses instead. Typing, and saying, "she" and "her" instead of "he" and "him", or vice versa, isn't difficult and doesn't cost you anything. If anything, I'd assume it would take more effort to use pronouns that don't match a person's presentation.

At this point, I'm really not sure what to think. So let's just wrap this up by briefly revisiting some things you said in passing earlier.
Before anybody flames me (and I'm sure I'll get a couple folks unfriending me, your loss, BTW)...
And if you think I'm a complete cad...
That reads as though you're aware, on some level, that what you're arguing is problematic at best, even if you wouldn't admit it and can't understand why. So let me end with a simple suggestion, assuming that you don't want people to think you're a "complete cad". Consider avoiding this subject until you've made at least a token effort to understand it. And show people a little respect even if you disagree with them.

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