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.
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.
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.
When I was younger, I wasn’t well-informed on anything except for which of my friends had the best swimming pool. Things have changed a lot since then. There are young people everywhere literally changing the world. Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Prize at just 17 for her work in women’s education and basic rights movements. Now, here’s a young woman at the forefront of the transgender rights and education movement, at only 14 years old. Jazz Jennings knew before she could understand the complex roles gender identity played in societal and social mores, that she wasn’t the gender she was assigned. From the looks of it, she hasn’t doubted it for a second since then. That makes her willingness to speak out, help adults and children alike, and represent a rapidly changing perception of gender dysphoria and transgender individuals that much more remarkable. Young people like Malala and Jazz are showing the world that these issues are so important that people 20, 30, 40, even 50 years younger than the politicians representing them are willing to get out into the real world and fight for them. If that doesn’t send a message, I don’t know what does.
I’m going to share a little personal information here. I grew up and went to public school in Texas. Most of my sexual education in school was late enough that I vividly remember it, with the first program happening in 5th grade. We didn’t talk much, but watched a video that I didn’t understand. I had to ask my mom what was happening later. She was horrified. The only thing that was verbally communicated by my teacher was a short script about menstruation, which grossed most of us out. That was it.
Fast forward to middle school, and our coach was required to dedicate one class to STD/STI information. We played some sort of game that demonstrated how quickly an STD can spread, and we were warned against having sex. That was the lesson. In high school, we took a health class that forced us to view horribly advanced cases of STDs and STIs up close and personal. Again, this was all we learned about.
The reason I bring all this up, is because I stumbled upon this article recently. Although it’s a bit old, the information remains mostly the same. A majority of states don’t require any sexual education classes in schools, and an even smaller amount talk about contraception. Why are we so afraid to be honest with kids about sex? Especially once they get to high school, and a good amount of their classmates begin to experiment and begin having sex, they should be well-informed. I still have to inform fellow college students that their perceptions or beliefs about sex are simply incorrect. I knew people who got pregnant because they didn’t think they could due to superstitions or just plain wrong information. I had to teach my previously sexually active boyfriend that he was poorly informed on several different areas once we began dating.
The bottom line, in my opinion, is that teaching abstinence-only programs is the same thing as ignoring contraception altogether. Sending our children out into the world without properly equipping them to succeed in as many areas as possible is sending our world in the wrong direction. Teaching children the facts about sex, contraception, STD/STIs, pregnancy, and other related topics isn’t pushing them to have sex. It’s giving them what they need to make their own, well-informed decisions about sex. It isn’t their education’s responsibility to sway them on such a personal topic. Perhaps we can simply leave the opinions to their parents. Wouldn’t that be novel?