Gender Prison: School Daze

It really is about the next generations, you know.

Or should be. For someone like me, at age 64, my life either has been ruined already…or it has not. Being treated as an equal would be nice for a change, but I've managed to get by without that so far. I can probably continue to do so until I die…though I admit to worrying about what might happen to me if I have to end up in a nursing home.

That's why, I guess, I've been more than a little uptight about our recent sale of Debbie's mother's condo in Los Angeles. We're planning to use the proceeds from that sale to purchase a place in which Debbie and I can live in the retirement I'm planning to start in about a year and a half.

But like I said, it's not about me. I can manage, thank you.

Most of you know that I'm a college professor. I've been a teacher for 36 years and I plan to retire at the end of next academic year. I tell my students that I started going to school in kindergarten and have been going ever since (except for a few brief interludes). At some point they decided to call me a teacher and start paying me, but I'm just basically going to school every day like them.

Tonight I have a trio of stories with school settings.

A student named James at Clarke High School in Clarington, Ontario (east along Lake Ontario from Toronto) probably hasn't developed the same set or survival skills.

James is transitioning from female to male. He was at first told at the beginning of the school year that he would not be allowed to use the men's washrooms because he didn't yet have a male body. They told him that he should instead use the washroom at a neighboring Shell station food bar. James thought that being told he would have to leave campus to pee was a bit much, so he refused. As a fallback position, the school has offered James access to the staff washroom. But every time he needs to use the facility, he has to ask for a key...I guess so he can be supervised.

The principal here has refused to comment to the press, directing inquiries to the local school board.

James' fellow students have rallied around him, however. At present there are about 160 names on a petition to let James use the men's room.

Social media is stepping up the pressure:

@Darian_Todd: Clarke is so stupid, they tell us to not bully and stuff and except [sic] people. Yet there [sic] not accepting transgender people like james.

@humble_holly: He deserves to be accepted for who he is.

According to the School website, the school's key principles include a commitment to "show respect for all persons."

Once again we encounter the phenomenon of people not understanding that the phrase "all persons" should include transpeople.

That's a little off-putting.

Clarke senior Dan Brunelle has appealed to NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, asking if the new Toby's Law (an amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code which protects transpeople) applies to James' situation. For background about Toby's Act: I wrote about it in June.

Last month, the Toronto School Board released guidelines which allow students to use the washroom which corresponds to their gender identity regardless of sex assigned at birth.




And that brings us to the East Aurora, IL School District. When last we looked in, that school board had rescinded a policy protecting transgender students from abuse and treating them equally in deference to the Illinois Family Institute.

The school district has formed an Ad Hoc committee to study the issue and it convened for the first time this past Thursday. This time, the committee says, it will get the policy right.

We want to take enough time to make sure we get in the right policy to protect this group of students as well as all students.

--Anita Lewis, chair of the committee

Lewis claims that the committee needs to establish a policy, but additionally needs to create a mechanism for training teachers, administrators and staff how to support transgender students.

We have to do a better job. The better we do at this, the better it will be for our whole country.


As East Aurora goes, so goes the nation.

The committee has 21 members, including three school board members, the school district attorney, the district's spokesperson, longtime district residents, teachers, administrators, religious leaders, a statewide anti-bullying expert, civil rights leaders, and transgender community rights activists. Sounds to me like just the constituents to get not very much accomplished.

Being transgender is not easy. It’s extremely important that we address the issues of transgender kids today. We cannot protect them all the time, but we can as much as possible so that they can turn into productive people in this world.

--Crystal Gray, transgender policy advocate

The average person has a 1 in 15,000 change of being murdered. A transperson has a 1 in 13 chance of being murdered. Additionally transpeople are eight times as likely to commit suicide.

If we only passed policy an hoped that it would protect students, then we have not done our jobs. We need to have something more — procedures and mechanisms in place.

--Sara Schreiber, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance

The committee doesn't expect to have the new policy in place this calendar year.

It is not a debate as to whether or not this is the right policy. That has already been determined for us. It’s about how we do it.
That ship is sailed.

--school district attorney, Bernie Weiler

Here in New Jersey…and probably in other locations across the country, this is the beginning of TransWeek at Rutgers, which will conclude with Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20.

TransWeek is an initiative that I’m bringing here as a way to raise awareness for issues transgender people face. I sort of just brought it here because I thought it was a really great initiative that not a lot of colleges are doing.

--Zaneta Rago, assistant director of Social Justice Education

Ms. Rago previously had worked at a similar event at NYU. She affirmed that trans issues are built into all of SJE's programs throughout the year.

But the reason why we started a concentrated TransWeek in addition to all of the other trans programming we do throughout the year is because I really want it to have very visible community outreach.


Throughout the week, (Un)Heard: Transmasculine People of Color Speak will be displayed in the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities's office in Tillet Hall on the Livingston campus in Piscataway. (Un)heard is a multimedia installation by activists and artists (artivists?) Asher Kolieboi and B Mann.

Janet Mock will be speaking this evening at the Douglass Campus Center.

There will be a coffeehouse fundraiser for the Ali Forney Center sponsored by the Queer Students Alliance on Friday.

Rutgers University students have used their facilities and have benefited from their program. They cater to homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City and surrounding areas, the center that was destroyed provided HIV testing, counseling services, food services and housing for hundreds of youth.

--Rebecca Pero, co-president, Queer Student Alliance

LLEGO (nationally the Latino/a Lesbian and Gay Organization, but at Rutgers the LGBTQ People of Color Alliance) plans to host a dinner on TDOR, November 20.

It’s essentially a Thanksgiving dinner. What they’re also doing is bringing awareness about the violence that transgender nonconforming folks face.


The organizers hope the week will strengthen the growing transgender community on campus.

I hope it raises awareness and visibility about transgender issues across the whole campus. I also hope that it is a way for transgendered students to find their community on campus and in our office.

There are a lot of trans folks, there are a lot of folks who don’t necessarily understand trans issues. For me, it’s really important to raise awareness for all of our community.





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Yes, there have been things going on when...

Robyn's picture

...most thought it was only elections. Transpeople still do not have equal rights. We are still not considered to be "of the body". And it would be nice if people who believed in the election fairy chose candidates who might address some of that.

Maybe in another two or three decades, right?

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