Transgender Sportsmanship

By Dave Granlund

By Dave Granlund

In another step forward for transgender rights, the ability to play on sports teams matching their gender is spreading across school districts.  Recently in Minnesota a school voted in a landslide victory to let their athletes play on their gender team.  This is something that increasingly is being done, but in this particular case, a little more spotlight was shed on the issue thanks to the Governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton.  Governor Dayton chose to address not only this issue, but people who voted against the measure.  He had seen an advertisement printed by the Minnesota Child Protection League in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The advertisements contained not only false claims about what exactly the measure meant, and who it would impact, but used an overly emotional argument to influence people’s opinions before the vote.  The Governor addressed the ad by saying

“I think some of the hate-mongering that was going on was just despicable…I can’t comprehend how some people in this state can want to spend their time on something that’s that destructive to other people’s lives and misstate it in such a way that is really appalling.”

The more that we see people who have a public audience stand up and express their support for not only transgender rights, but LGBTQ rights and human rights in general, the more exposure and gravity these movements gain.  Every speech, blog, conversation, and comment helps.

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Teach Us Something We Don’t Know

By Mikhaela Reid, referenced from mikhaela.net

By Mikhaela Reid, referenced from mikhaela.net

Salon.com posted an article recently about sex-ed, and it’s definitely worth looking in to if you’re interested (or plainly enraged) by the topic.

Here is a very in-depth look at what exactly is happening (or rather, not happening) in the US school systems in regard to sexual education, and why.  It highlights the use of abstinence-only programs, and why that can be so very damaging to teens, and anyone else exposed to it.

Bathroom Advancements

referenced from: mikhaela.net

referenced from: mikhaela.net

It’s always good to see schools preemptively adapt to their students.  A school district in Clifton Park, New York has started the process to officially allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.  This is the first case that I’ve seen where a school began putting policies like this up for a vote without any legal pressure or public pressure related to a current student.  They will require the students to have some sort of “documentation” (presumably a doctor’s note or some other medical personnel’s diagnosis with gender identity disorder, or something similar), as well as permission from high-ranking school officials.  I would guess that these restrictions were put into place to help quell some adult concerns about sexual assaults and boys sneaking into the women’s room.  In my opinion, it would be incredibly difficult for a teenage boy to truly, passably, fake being transgender, but apparently not everyone agrees with that.  The school makes a point to specify the “gender identity that the student exclusively and consistently asserts at school,” which is, again, a smart way to clarify that this is meant for students well into their transition.

Taking Control of the Future

From the film: Mean Girls reference from vegasseven.com

From the film: Mean Girls
reference from vegasseven.com

Sex education has been a big topic for years now.  Some states have better curriculum than others, but the bad ones tend to be absolutely awful.  While this seems to be an easy topic for adults to throw around ideas relating to, you rarely hear opinions from those actually in the programs.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that in Nevada, groups of students are letting their school district know exactly what they think about the sex ed. program currently in place.  Apparently, a comprehensive sex ed program was suggested (shocking!), and parents began to object.  This article from alternet explains some of the *incredibly controversial* (insert sarcasm) things the comprehensive program plans to educate students on.  Surprisingly, only 22 states require sexual education programs, and only 19 require any provided programs to be medically accurate.  If you ask me (which no one did), the kids who are currently receiving and evaluating these programs in person should have a little bit more pull than the parents.  We’re talking about a primarily high school program.  There’s even a student talking about how the abstinence-based program made her, as a rape survivor, feel as though she was worthless.  That’s worth listening to.

From the Mouths of Babes

referenced from campustours.tamu.edu

referenced from campustours.tamu.edu

Okay, so maybe college students aren’t exactly babies anymore.  Some of them do have legitimate political opinions, formulated through personal research and attention to current events.  But, as I’m about to display, many of them have little to no idea what’s happening in the real world.  I took a poll of students at Texas A&M University, via several large (widely used) groups online.  Each of these groups requires a Texas A&M certified email to be a member, so it ensured that I would be polling only students.  Texas A&M is considered to be a relatively conservative university, with its agriculture roots and heavy military presence attracting many students from small-town Texas.  Naturally, I thought producing a survey regarding opinions and education surrounding same-sex marriage based here would produce some interesting results.  There were lots of conflicting responses.  The first question was “The Supreme Court recently turned down petitions halting same-sex marriage. This means that (at least temporarily), same-sex marriage is legal in at least five more states, paving the way for countless others to legalize same-sex marriage. What are your feelings about this?”  Out of exactly 100 responses, 61% reported favorable responses such as “It’s about time!”  There were 26% who reported negative feelings such as shock, feeling offended, and being unhappy to hear the report.  The other 13% said they had been keeping up with the news and already knew about the development.

The next question was “Do you think that the Supreme Court is indirectly supporting same-sex marriage through this decision?”  Students reported 65% belief that SCOTUS was supporting same-sex marriage, 22% belief this didn’t show support, and 13% confusion/no opinion about the topic.

The next question got a wide range of responses, as it was open ended.  I asked “Do you know how many states currently allow same-sex marriage?” with simply a blank below the question for them to fill in.  I arranged their answers in groupings of ten for ease of reporting.  49% of those surveyed said they didn’t know or didn’t care to guess.  There were 21% of guesses between one and ten states, with the most common guess being five states.  Frankly, I found this to be a bit shocking.  I know that this is a commonly changing number, especially right now, but by 2010 the number was far greater than 10.  There were 11 guesses between 11-20, and 17 guesses between 21 and 30.  All things considered, I wouldn’t say this is very far off of what I expected.

The next two questions had remarkably similar results, though I don’t consider them to be overly related.  The fourth question was “Do you think that the Supreme Court will eventually have to step in for same-sex marriage to be allowed in all 50 states?”  This is something I myself have spent quite a bit of time pondering, so it formed the basis for an interesting set of statistics.  The overwhelming answer was “yes,” with 71% of the vote.  There was a 24% vote for no, and a 5% vote for “I don’t know,” which I suppose is essentially a lack of vote.  The final question, which I wanted as a base to compare to the rest of the questions, was simply “Do you personally believe that same-sex marriage should be legalized?”  I say it’s simple, but for a lot of people I suppose it isn’t.  It got 68% of votes for “yes,” 16% of the votes for “no,” and 16% for “I don’t know.”

Now, why is this information at all significant.  It’s a sample of a sample.  My opinion is that these statistics are a representation of what’s happening next.  Texas A&M is full of college students, learning and creating their own identities that they will still have when they vote in the future.  Texas A&M is also full of people with religious and conservative backgrounds, in an incredibly conservative state.  If even a majority of the students here believe that same-sex marriage is on its way to be legalized (and agree that it should be), that’s worth noticing.

Lets Talk Boobs

by Heather Cushman-Dowdee

by Heather Cushman-Dowdee

Excuse me, “breasts.”  I had to get your attention somehow.  We’re talking breastfeeding today.  Honestly though, this has been a big issue for quite a while now.  Not only is it something that affects quite a few people, but everyone seems to have an opinion on it as well.  Recently, a story came out about a woman in Florida, who seemingly took every precaution to avoid offending anyone while breastfeeding on an elementary school campus, but was still approached (by the principal) and asked to cover up or leave.  Now, after this interaction, the story gets a bit fuzzy.  She later confronted the principal regarding her rights as a breastfeeding mother, and the rest of the story is contested and hearsay.  Regardless of her behavior, she was correct on her rights to breastfeed in public.  Florida law states she may breastfeed in public, with any amount of breast or nipple exposed.  However, there is no enforcement provision in Florida, which is where the problem occurs.  It essentially means that you’re required to follow this law, but there’s not penalty if you do not.  Seems a bit contradictory to me, but who am I to judge?

Don’t Carry it Alone

I’m sure a lot of you heard about Emma Sulkowicz and her project “Carry that Weight,” in response to her school (Columbia University) refusing to expel her rapist.  She vowed to carry her dorm mattress around until he was removed from the University.  The project gained a significant amount of support, with other students assisting her and waiting outside of her classes to help carry the mattress.  The project has now taken even more exciting turns, gaining notoriety and support from within the university and around the world.  She has inspired other students, even some so close as the same floor of her dorm, to join in the mattress-carrying, awareness-raising, change-demanding movement.  Students all over the world joined together for one day to air out their mattresses and their personal struggles in a demonstration of how poorly sexual assaults are often handled on college campuses everywhere.  Huffington Post reports over 10,000 RSVPs for “attending” on the facebook event page for the protest.

Now, I’ve written about this issue before, both in my “Objectification Nation” post and in my “Not So Frat-tastic” post, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve been following this as well.  What should surprise you, is that there haven’t been many responses from schools.  This article from Time.com displays link after link of investigative reporting and opinion reporting of sexual assaults on campuses (specifically regarding their handling by administration).  That in itself should show you this isn’t one person’s problem.  This isn’t one school’s problem.  This isn’t even one country’s problem.  This is something that affects all of us and it needs to be addressed until it’s changed.  Whether we use demonstrations, articles, petitions, or simple conversations, we need to keep reminding ourselves and others that problems like this exist because we let them, and we shouldn’t continue that cycle.