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Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Transgendered Minors and Bill O'Reilly

A friend had sent me a message that Bill O'Reilly had a segment on his Fox News opinion show about something to do with transgender. She didn't mention what it was but wanted to let me know. I think she watched it, but I was engaged in something REALLY important at the time, watching my beloved Crimson Tide whip the stuffing out of Auburn in basketball. There are few things in the sporting world that give me such pleasure as Alabama whuppin' up on Auburn in any athletic endeavor, so I taped it and put it on the back burner. The airing date was on 2/26/2013.

I usually find a lot of common ground with Mr. O'Reilly. I did have some serious problems with what I initially interpreted to be a condescending tone in his voice towards people who are transgendered, but later changed my mind and decided his tone was directed towards the Department of Education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or whatever the governing agency that oversees education there is called. I think he is actually sympathetic towards adults who are transsexuals, but not necessarily "transgendered" which tends to be a catch all phrase for people with various gender identities that may or may not be congruent with their somatic sex.

His guests who were debating the Commonwealth's policy with the broad category of students were Alan Colmes, a frequent Fox News contributor who represents liberal points of view and Monica Crowley, who is also a frequent Fox News political commentator and represents conservative points of view. In my opinion, Mr. O'Reilly could have found much better people who were imminently more qualified to comment on this topic who might share different points of view. Ummm, perhaps my good friend Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality (who I respect and admire and who is doing extremely important work, though we are on opposite ends of the political spectrum) and myself, for instance.

The following topics were introduced; cross gender competition in sports;
the ever controversial bathroom and locker room issue; and parental rights to notification that the school system is assisting students not of the age of majority to pursue living a cross gender life that is congruent with their identity without the knowledge of the parents.

It seems to me that these students, most likely have not had the benefit of being hormonally reassigned. It is by simple declaration of an adolescent or child, for that matter, that the government of  Massachusetts' educational system, will allow students to compete in sports that are designated men's or women's sports, as well as allow them to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for cisgendered individuals.

There are several problems that I see with this policy. First, if male bodied athletes are allowed to compete in cis women's sports, and have not been hormonally reassigned, they have a significant advantage over ciswomen physically in most cases and this has a negative impact on women's ability to have opportunities to compete in sports that schools offers given the limited number of roster spots on scholastic teams. There exists a possible conflict with Title IX which was enacted to give women equal access to sports in schools, as men traditionally have had. That would result in uncounted rounds of legal battles to resolve these issues, likely to ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court.

If a male bodied student has been hormonally reassigned, this levels the playing field and I believe they should be allowed to compete in their identified gender identity because generally they are at a physical disadvantage compared to cis males and if they can make the team it would clearly be by their athletic talents and skills. For the female to male identified student, competing in men's sports is not such a disadvantage to cis males

The bathroom and locker room issue has always been controversial. My opinion is that there should be separate facilities available for rest room and locker room needs for students who have not been hormonally and surgically reassigned. I think this is just a matter of respect towards cisgender people, just as they should respect us. I think the IN-Your- Face attitude of people whose somatic gender is not congruent with their gender identity creates more ill will towards us than helps us advance our rights as members of a democratic society. What good comes of making the vast majority of people uncomfortable in the name of insisting we be treated the same, though in fact when we have not had surgical reassignment we are not the same? To me it is a simple matter of courtesy and respect, just as I expect to be treated with respect.

For those who are undergoing hormonal reassignment and live full time in our true gender identity, the restroom issue is moot. We should and do use the appropriate gendered restroom. More and more states are issuing legal identification with the proper gender marker to our identity and in those situations, there is no question about which restroom is appropriate to use.

To me, though, the most important problem is the systematic violation of parental rights by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Commonwealth's position is that simply by the student declaring he or she is transgendered and does not wish his or her parents to know, will facilitate the student's gender transition at school. While if there is a real threat of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or neglect, a child should be removed from the parent's home. To simply bypass the parents and facilitate this cross gender life at school only without any proof of abuse or neglect, in my opinion, is extremely harmful to the family unit and is a prescription to ensure long term alienation of family relationships.

Mr. Colmes argued that extensive evaluations and documentation must be conducted or provided for the school to be allowed to intervene this way, but Dr. Crowly argued, and I believed correctly, how will these extensive evaluations be conducted without the parent's knowledge? It seems to me that it is highly unlikely that that could occur and I think this governmental interference in family life in both the short run and long run, does much to hurt the individual and the individual's family, and is a set back in normalizing acceptance of transsexual people in our culture. I think that this removes the opportunity to provide services to the family to help the entire family unit to adjust and make positive changes so that the transsexual individual may preserve family relationships, not permanently alienate them from their families. The role of the government should be to strengthen families, not to destroy them.


10 comments:

  1. JinianVictoria@yahoo.comMarch 9, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    Lauren, Much of what you say makes sense and I do agree it allows the government to interfere in matters that concern the individual and their family. However I quarrel with your use of hormones as the identified of a gender change candidate. What of the individual who has the body of 1 sex (use the male here)has started to take hormones but has not started showing the effects of it? should he be prohibited from playing in his new gender as well as his old? If the taking of hormones is the deciding point then we must admit that until the effects are known of the taking the individual must remain in their (or his) born gender and that also means he (or she)is not seen as transgendered even tho identifying as the opposite gender. And if that is the case your argument would appear to be self reducing ie if you take the hormones you are whatever you choose to be only if you show the effects of it. I f you do not show or do not take the hormones you are not in whatever sex you define yourself as. This may appear a small point but it is an important one.....hormones are not the true deciding point. They are only 1 of many. Perhaps the easiest but not the only correct one.

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    1. I think that once someone has been prescribed hormones, they should be allowed to begin playing sports in their identified gender. You are correct in observing that the physical changes do not happen immediately, but I think that over the course of a sports season, that physical changes will begin to occur and I also think that if a person has decided to take the major step of deciding to take hormones, that indicates in almost every case this person has made a well thought out decision to live publically in the gender that is congruent with their identity. I see no reason to deprive a minor student of the opportunity to participate fully in extracurricular activities that the school affords any other student.

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  2. Here's where you and I disagree: O'Reilly's tone was NOT toward the DOE. It was toward US. (Yes, I watched this show.)

    He has on several occasions come out as a foe of the Transgender community. Google this, and you'll find out.

    A question: You state "The role of the government should be to strengthen families, not to destroy them." As a right winger, and Fox "news" watcher, isn't it your position that the government should have NOTHING to do with family life (except from stopping gays from marrying, etc)? I'm confused.

    Aside from that, we agree. :)

    Oh, and point of order: Colmes is NOT a liberal, nor does he state a liberal point of view. He was the "Washington Generals" to Hannity's Globetrotters- set up to look bad. Anyone who said "George W. Bush is a genius" is NOT a liberal. He is at best a moderate, more likely a conservative paid to seem "liberal." I should know- I AM a liberal (as you know) ;)

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    1. Hey there Sophie, thanks so much for commenting on my blog. It's important to get a wide range of opinions from all sides and degrees of the political spectrum.Your comments are welcomed and valued whether we agree or disagree!

      First I need to clarify an assumption you have made about my news source viewing. I am not a regular viewer of Fox News and have not been for a number of years, more than 6, though at one point I did watch Fox News for the most part. I came to the conclusion that whether I watched CNN, MSNBC,Fox,CBS,NBC,ABC or any other new source for that matter, they are all biased. Fox stands out from the others because they are conservative. I would wager that they are the only conservative news source on television. It sounds as if you are a regular viewer of this network, which does surprise me! Who knew?

      The only reason I happened to catch this segment of The O'Reilly Factor was because my friend sent me a message about it being on and I recorded it. I only got around to watching it yesterday.

      Whether Colmes is a liberal or a consevative is in the eye of the beholder (or in the ear of the listener LOL!),and from your political perspective, he may seem very conservative to you and I infer that you think he is a foil for the conservatives to play off of. Mr. Colmes though identifies himself as a liberal. He has been both endorsed and panned by others who identify themselves as liberals. It's no secret that I am conservative, but by the same standards, a lot of conservatives would consider me liberal. I guess the bottom line in this controversy is that "one woman's floor is another woman's ceiling".

      Though this article is not about homosexuality and really isn't pertenant to this discussion, you pose the legitimate question to me asking whether my position is that the government should have nothing to do with family life except from preventing gay marriage. No, that is not my position at all. I think that gay people should be entitled to all the freedoms and privileges guaranteed to any other legal citizen of the United States. I do, however believe that the U.S. government has been too intrusive into family life and that is one most important reasons that we have way too many single parent households. I believe that single parent households are in general detrimental to raising children in many ways. There are, however clear instances where children are better off with a single parent than in a family where one parent is a disaster, for whatever reason (active addiction or being abusive).

      Having said that, I'm guessing your question in response to that would be " Are you saying that gay parents aren't as good as heterosexual parents in raising children?!"

      My answer to that is in one word, no. I believe that homosexual couples are every bit as capable and do as good a job of raising their children as heterosexual parents. I believe that in most cases, children are best served by having two parents in an intact family unit.

      Whether Mr. O'Reilly is prejudiced against transgender people is a separate discussion. What I heard him say that transgendered people have a legitimate problem and need to be taken seriously and helped. He was speaking of adults. It appears to me he does not approve of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Department of Education's policy. I'm sure it is well intentioned, but Mr. O'Reilly doesn't agree that facilitate a young person's actual transition without parents being aware this is going on is ethically sound.

      As always, thank you for taking your time to read my blog and contribute to the discussion!

      Lauren





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    2. Hi!
      I live with my mother in law, who watches Fox constantly. so I'm familiar with their propaganda. That said, my standard news source is the BBC. non slanted.

      my point in bringing up gay marriage was to show the hypocrisy of the GOP's position. note I didn't say "conservative" position, as often they are 2 different things.

      As for O'Reilly, he wouldn't agree with a DOE unless it was from Texas. I assume you know what they're doing down there.

      thanks for replying!

      Ps: Holmes was paid to say he's a liberal. he isn't one.

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  3. Lauren, my only issue with required parental knowledge and consent is that some parents (usually the father) would treat their child terribly if they were informed they are transgender. I happen to know of a few cases where the child finally, and agonizingly revealed their gender incongruence to their parents only to be met with absolute rejection to the point of being kicked out of the house and shunned.

    I realize that parental knowledge is almost a segue from the original discussion point, but it is no minor issue either. I also find a slippery slope here that troubles me, and obviously you, that parental rights are being slowly removed and children are becoming legal wards of the state.

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    1. You and I are on the same page about that, Marsha. I had prefaced my opinion with the comment that if a child is being physically, emotionally or sexually abused they should be removed from that environment. I don't think ( and I stated0 the fear that this MIGHT occur warrents the state subverting parental rights and move to act without informing the parents, though I believe that children and adolescents have the right to confidentially speak with counselors and medical professionals.

      To make my point more clear, as I may not always be clear in my writing as I strive to be, if a young person discusses his or her gender identity and wishes to move forward with transitioning, the school counselor or mental health therapist who the young person came to can facilitate the process of discussing this most sensitive topic with the young person's family. This also provides the equally important function of making sure the young person is not abused or neglected as a result. In this manner, I think both the rights and the needs of the young person are attended to and respected as well as the rights of parents to be involved in decision making for their child.

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  4. Wow, you usually find much common ground with Bill O'Reilly?

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    1. Yeah! I wouldn't say that I agree with him all the time, but there are many times when I do. Believe it or not, there are lots of conservative transsexuals around!

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog Tammy, it's appreciated!

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  5. It seems that there is often a bit of a knee jerk reaction to anything that comes from Fox News or from O'Reilly. Quite often when he issues his opinion as part of his talking points the first question he poses to his guest is "Tell me where I am wrong". As a non-lawyer O'Reilly often makes generous use of the Socratic method.
    Like you, I do not agree with O'Reilly all the time...in fact I think that he does not agree with himself all the time, but he does often go the extra mile to keep an open mind on the subjects that cross his desk. While our friend Sophie castigates the GOP position, whatever that may be, O'Reilly himself is an independent.
    Pat

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