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26 Responses

  1. Ry
    Ry July 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm |

    There’s also a restroom access resource guide available from the Transgender Law Center:

    http://transgenderlawcenter.org/pdf/PIP%20Resource%20Guide.pdf

  2. amandaw
    amandaw July 2, 2009 at 1:00 pm |

    I can’t dig up the link, but Amanda at Ballastexistenz made the point about bullying: why is it that we send the bullied kids to therapy, and make them accommodate the bullying? Why isn’t it the *bullies* getting sent off to the school counselor, made to change their routes, etc.? How fucking backwards do we have it?

  3. Marcy Webb
    Marcy Webb July 2, 2009 at 1:00 pm |

    I can relate to the issues presented in the post in a personal way. At my former place of employ – a self-proclaimed progressive school in upstate NY – there was a transgendered student (female to male, for clarification). A decision was made for him to use the faculty bathroom, instead of the boys’ bathroom. Even though he was to use the faculty bathroom versus the boys’ bathroom, many of the boys were upset. Honestly, I believe the boys’ feelings, for the most part, were the result of ignorance and fear, and not prejudice. However, my former place of employ, operating on this “we’re all equal” platform, did nothing to educate the faculty and staff, let alone the student body, re: transgender issues. There was an assumption that since, “we’re a community, we’re a family”, that was that. However, the approach my former place of employ couldn’t have been more wrong, and ignorant.

    Theoretically, perhaps, it should have been enough to say, “this is so and so, who is transgendered, and this is what will happen, and no further discussion.” However, I find that the most liberal, left-of-center organizations – and my former place of employ is one of them – are often the most ignorant, mis-informed and backwards places to be.

    So, while there are schools stepping up and educating re: transgender issues, I wonder what sort of “educating” are they doing?

  4. amandaw
    amandaw July 2, 2009 at 1:06 pm |

    Found it. Amanda in “Students vote boy out of class

    And I remember as well that when I was bullied so mercilessly — at an age where I understood far better what was happening — that I was afraid to go to school and lashed out defensively at nearly anyone who tried to interact with me at all, I was the one who got counseling, and I was the one who was talked about by teachers as if there was something wrong with me. And I was the one who had to repeat a grade and change schools. The bullies were left to go on doing their thing, because it was only natural to be nasty and cruel, but wholly unnatural to be terrified of people who acted in this manner.

    Why is it that the person to do the accommodating is the one hurt by it, and the thing to be accommodated is the perpetration of hurt? Doesn’t that assume that it is perpetration of hurt that should be allowed to exist without challenge?

  5. prairielily
    prairielily July 2, 2009 at 1:28 pm |

    Holly, for the most part I agree with you. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure why ANY washrooms are gender-segregated. I don’t really care what the person next to me is using to pee, and you’re correct that a stick figure on the door is no guarantee of safety. A man could sneak in to kill me, and a woman (trans or cis) could walk in and do so. Either way, the likelihood of that happening is so slim that the possibility just sounds outlandish to me.

    But in this case, this little girl IS in danger. She’s being stalked and bullied. Do any of us really think that the harasser is going to stick to yelling faggot at her? His asshole grandfather is probably going to tell him to beat her up very soon, if he hasn’t done it already. I don’t LIKE the idea at all, mind you. It’s farther away, and it singles her out. I just think that she is actually in danger.

    Frankly, I would prefer to send the bully to a different school. He’s clearly not comfortable around his peers and would be happier in a different learning environment. If it’s farther away from his home, I’m sure his grandfather would be happy to drive him there. And honestly, he’s probably bullying other students as well.

    The best solution would be if he learns to stop being an asshole like his grandfather at a young age, but I’m not holding my breath.

  6. Maureen
    Maureen July 2, 2009 at 2:15 pm |

    I kind of wish this had taken place:

    SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION PERSON: Hi, we’ve learned that your grandson James has been following Tina into the girls’ restroom.
    GRANDPA: Yep, I told him that he could do that so long as that freak boy was doing it.
    ADMIN: It’s great that you’re being so understanding about James’s gender, but we do require a doctor’s note in order to let James use the girls’ room. I think Dr. Broadbent over in Appleton treats a lot of transgender children…
    GRANDPA: What?
    ADMIN: Well, why else would James want to use the girls’ room?
    GRANDPA: My grandson is not a fag!
    ADMIN: We don’t use that kind of language here, sir.
    GRANDPA: He’s not a freak–
    ADMIN: Yeah, we don’t use that kind of language either.
    GRANDPA: He doesn’t want to be a girl, okay?
    ADMIN: So why is he using the girls’ room?
    GRANDPA: Why’s that boy who dresses in girls’ clothes using the girls’ room?
    ADMIN: She wants to have a vagina instead of a penis.
    GRANDPA: (silence)
    ADMIN: So, we’re sending James to our alternative program for a week, then, and hopefully he’ll stop abusing the other children. Any questions?

  7. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale July 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm |

    Maureen – I get where you’re coming from, but it’s never appropriate to discuss other people’s genitals without their consent. The fact that a child is known to be transgender does not constitute permission to discuss her genitalia or body.

    Furthermore, the fact that she’s transgender doesn’t mean that’s what she wants. Or she may want that *as well* as a number of other things. Transgender status does not reduce down to, necessarily focus on, or always include focus on genitals.

    Seriously, that’s a really gross thing to say. I know a lot of people do it, but it’s still really creepy.

  8. Maureen
    Maureen July 2, 2009 at 5:09 pm |

    My bad. I apologize.

  9. ThickRedGlasses
    ThickRedGlasses July 2, 2009 at 5:22 pm |

    Let me get this straight. A cis boy walks into a girls’ bathroom to harass a trans girl. And it’s the trans girl who has to change where she goes to the bathroom. If that girl was cis, this boy would be identified as the predator that he is. He’d be suspended, if not expelled, and the girl would use the same bathroom as always. God, the world is fucking nuts. Seriously, my brain is hurting and I’m getting angry with all this.

  10. Holly
    Holly July 2, 2009 at 6:02 pm |

    prarielily, I agree with you. I would understand completely if her parents had wanted to pull her out of the school, or demand that her harasser be sent elsewhere. With his grandfather on the loose trying to cause trouble for her, she was certainly more at risk than a lot of bullied kids. I’m using the past tense because she’s probably in 7th grade by now, and possibly at a completely different school already.

    Still, it’s not like the school’s action — making her use a different restroom — was doing anything at all to protect her. It’s not like people would stop harassing her just because the school forced her to accede to one of their demands, related to bathrooms. Rage has erupted from parents, misunderstanding and bullying from kids, over trans & gender non-conforming kids regardless of what bathrooms they use. The risk is always there unless you just keep running (and hope nobody finds out about your daughter’s original gender assignment) or somehow force her to be someone she’s not. So I also don’t blame her parents, in fact I applaud them, for going to the Maine HRC and taking a stand.

  11. William
    William July 2, 2009 at 6:52 pm |

    Maybe its just my experience with schools and my reflexive distrust of anyone with authority, but this story seems to make perfect sense to me. I’d find it hard to believe that any school official would want to be accommodating to a trans-person (god knows getting disability accommodations is like pulling teeth) for any reason other than fear of getting sued. All the boy and his Grandfather did was give the school an excuse to make the offending object* go away. Cast the trans-kid off to the faculty bathroom, tell them its for their own safety (and how thankful they should be that the school is progressive and understanding), give the boy a little slap on the wrist with a nudge and a wink, and go back to business as usual.

  12. Angela
    Angela July 2, 2009 at 8:02 pm |

    ThickRedGlasses is very right.

  13. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 2, 2009 at 8:58 pm |

    Aside from the fail all over this story, I do like that the paper is using appropriate pronouns.

  14. woland
    woland July 2, 2009 at 11:11 pm |

    Ugh. Aside from all the other massive fail in this situation, I “love” the fact that so much of the focus in the article comments is on the supposed threat posed to the other girls using the bathroom, when there’s ZERO evidence that a single girl was bothered in the slightest that their trans female classmate used the girls’ room.

    To be clear, even if girls did claim to be bothered, that would be no reason to deny a trans girl bathroom access. But. A lot of the article commenst suggest that some bigot using his grandson to stalk and harass a trans girl supposedly protects the cis girls, and the girls in question get no voice at all. For all we know, they’re totally trans-affirming and down with the whole thing and have nothing but contempt for the people committing bigotry allegedly for their benefit. But hey, they’ children, and female at that, so who the hell cares what they think?

  15. little light
    little light July 3, 2009 at 1:12 am |

    Just watch and wait for the new argument against allowing trans people to use the correct bathrooms:

    “If we let trans women use the women’s bathroom, then bigoted men will follow them in to attack them–making cis women less safe!”

    I mean, seriously, everyone’s so busy being up in arms about a trans girl in the girl’s room–oh my god it’s like a boy in the girl’s bathroom!–that they can’t spare a damn minute to be up in arms about the actual boy who followed her in there to attack her? And the adult telling the child to do so? The little girl is the problem, and not the grown man telling his grandson to invade the girl’s bathroom to harass someone? And have we still failed to notice that the stick figure on the door is not a magic barrier to men and boys?

  16. prairielily
    prairielily July 3, 2009 at 7:39 am |

    Holly,

    We seem to be in general agreement. I also agree that it’s laudable that her parents are taking a stand, and I support them in that.

    The only reason why I thought the faculty washroom might be safer for her is because I assumed it was connected to the main office, or right outside it. It’s harder for a bully to harass this little girl if they have to walk past all the staff in the main office to do so. (Note that this assumption only works if the staff is actually interested in protecting her.)

    I know this is my privilege showing, but I saw this as a situation where a fifth grade girl would use the other washroom for the rest of the year, and then they would all go to middle school. In my mind, it was only temporary because the two of them wouldn’t be at the same school forever, and then this little girl could go back to using the same washroom as the other girls. I was thinking very specifically of this little girl’s situation at that time, and I wasn’t really applying it to anything else.

    Why did I think that when washroom issues are such a big deal to trans people? I concluded that no one else cared which washroom she used, especially the girls. If they did, someone’s mother would be in there with grandpa equally up in arms. There would have been incidents where the transgendered girl was bullied by groups of cisexual girls for using the “wrong” bathroom. I don’t think that happened, because the school would have already moved her to the faculty washroom for her “safety,” you know?

    But yeah, as a WOC, I should have remembered that when you give these people an inch, they take a mile.

  17. Little Sara
    Little Sara July 3, 2009 at 9:22 am |

    I’m glad the argument never actually even came up at my place of work. And it’s not like HR are not knowing of my history. With no document change they knew the day I was hired. I explained my situation as best I could, to clear things up (not let false assumptions do my piece instead of me), and have never had a problem using the women’s room.

    No one’s been raped, or harassed or whatever else because of my presence (and I don’t mean to accuse the girl, I’m just saying, a trans girl using the girl’s room brings no issue unless someone makes it one – in this case the grandpa and son).

    Frankly, given the way my case was treated when I attempted to go to college (which didn’t work out in the end, too little school loans to even survive), what with being forced to use my legal name and having to deal with bathroom and locker room (PE is mandatory in college here, just not all semesters) on my own, with no help at all… I thought a workplace would be worst.

  18. little light
    little light July 3, 2009 at 9:34 am |

    prairielily@16:

    (Note that this assumption only works if the staff is actually interested in protecting her.)

    And honestly, call it cynical, but you’ve just brought up my primary fear about having this girl go through the faculty lounge or whatever to get to an isolated washroom away from the other kids. You combine that with the basic vulnerability of her being trans–and therefore, on some level, lacking credibility as a narrator to most people–and what you’ve got is an already-bullied little girl walking through an isolated area with only adults, all of whom know that a: she’s isolated and b: she has reason to keep her mouth shut, plus c: she won’t be believed about a lot of things. And if you’re the sort of adult who thinks this kid is a pervert and maybe even “asking for it”…

    It’s a situation ripe for abuse. I hate to be the one pointing it out. It’s not that I don’t think well enough of teachers in general, it’s just that it’s a situation with no failsafes. And there were plenty of teachers who never wanted to protect me, even when I was a kid subjected to violence; it’s not a far extrapolation to account for the idea that there are teachers who don’t just look the other way when a gender-nonconforming kid is harmed, but maybe even agree with that grandpa that it should happen. It may be fine at this school in particular or a thousand others, but as a policy it’s a recipe for trouble eventually.

  19. amandaw
    amandaw July 3, 2009 at 9:44 am |

    The thing here is that for trans children, most of the time, the adults aren’t protectors, safety. The adults are yet more predators — and much bigger, more authoritative, powerful ones. The adults are yet more people out to hurt you.

  20. Little Sara
    Little Sara July 3, 2009 at 9:59 am |

    I’m almost glad I was in my fog of confusion, not knowing, not caring, at school age. All that mattered was finishing the grade, getting it over with. Since I brushed the issue under the rug in my mind, I didn’t have to worry about the vast stupidity of adults while a child, well at least not to the extent I would have had I been openly trans. My parents knew I was depressed, but not why, and were too busy to investigate. The initial work and support to find out about trans was done solo, then friends, and finally my mom jumped in to help, when I convinced her it would be permanent, and irreversible (in a way she couldn’t ignore).

    Pain makes us grow (we learn from it, become better, etc), but too much pain breaks us. I wish for that little girl to not have as much pain growing up as me and others have had, because of their difference.

  21. Stop Bullying Transgender Children - The Pursuit of Harpyness

    [...] I read another story about a bigoted adult lashing out against a trans child. Angry that his grandson’s school [...]

  22. voz
    voz July 3, 2009 at 10:06 am |

    That school is just a few miles down the road from my place. And yes, the neighbors are talking about it, and with far far more clue and sensitivity than I have seen on many feminist blogs

    That said, Holly, if you want a local perspective, let me know. This is most definitely not the place for it.

  23. Sam
    Sam July 3, 2009 at 2:38 pm |

    OMG I think I actually met Paul Melanson a long long time ago–I think he knows my family. This has sickened me, that poor little girl. People like Paul Melanson are just fostering and propagating hate onto an entire new generation.

  24. Nicole
    Nicole July 6, 2009 at 12:09 am |

    That poor little girl – :( I’m not trans but I was bullied for years and years in school, and I remember being scared to walk out of sight of adults because of what the other kids would say or do. Its no way to grow up, and I hope that things have gotten better for her since this incident. I do know that the scars from being bullied and teased daily for years don’t go away – its so STUPID that the grandfather was encouraging the boy in the story to do that. I wonder how many other parents in the area are/would be doing the same thing. The comments on the BDN site make me ashamed to live in Maine. This sort of prejudice isn’t limited to a certain generation or location around the state, but seems to be common through out.

  25. denelian
    denelian July 6, 2009 at 12:29 am |

    for the love of God -
    a 5th grade trangendered girl is *not* any sort of “threat” to other girls (except inasfar as she might prompt questioning of social norms)

    people are asking why it is always the victim who has to change something to be safe. and i wonder too – whenever i hear a story like this, i get very angry at it. it doesn’t matter why someone is being ullied or hurt – it is always the victims job to change.

    it’s bullshit. that little girl has *every* right to use the bathroom with her peers (and probably many of them are her firends!). making her go to a different bathroom just highlights that adults (some of them) don’t think her presentation is valid – it’s like admin in the school are telling everyone “she isn’t really a girl” – and that is horrifying. and shaming. and WRONG.

  26. Crissa
    Crissa July 9, 2009 at 5:49 pm |

    We wanted to do a video/commercial with instead of the ‘wrong’ gender entering a restroom after a child but instead a creepy looking priest-dressed guy or scary knife-wielding soccer mom… But we couldn’t find anyone willing to be the creepy priest dude.

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