LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Transgender students’ rights must be respected

It took my mother almost 18 months and lots of spilled milk to realize that I was born lefthanded. I also have blue eyes and my now white hair was blond. I am part of a marked minority: 5 percent to 8 percent of the world’s population is blond-haired with blue eyes while 10 percent of the population are lefties.

We are born that way. Some of my peers are surprised that I wasn’t forced to righthandedness in elementary school. My kindergarten teacher in 1950 let me be me, as did all of my teachers. Forcing lefties into righties faded out in the 1960s. My characteristics were inborn, not learned. The same is true for those who are born into the LGBTQ population.

Those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning were not taught to indentify as such. They came to realize that they were born that way just as I was born blond, blue eyed, and lefthanded.

For thousands of years, lefties have been discriminated against because many thought that we had negative or sinister tendencies. One of the definitions of sinister refers to the left side of a coat of arms. Like all who are “others”, members of the LGBTQ community as well as biracial persons have been derided, persecuted, beaten or killed.

This has been their history for millennia. It is no wonder that even in the 20th century most were reluctant to reveal themselves. I cannot estimate the number of parents, relatives and friends who were shocked to learn that their children were different from what they anticipated or wanted. Some mixed ethnicity parents are also surprised by the “racial” identity their offspring choose to adopt. Search “Beyond Identity; Beyond Black and White-bc.edu” to learn more about this issue.

A study about adults identifying as transgender was authored by Andrew Flores and others of the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law. The study found that 0.6 percent of responders identified themselves as transgender. In numbers, that is six people out of 1,000. This is an exceedingly small part of the population in the U.S.

Delaware has laws regarding discrimination against many individuals of “protected characteristic.” This includes those demonstrating the LGBTQ “characteristics.” The laws apply to all people with age being one of those “protected characteristics.”

The DDOE is considering changes to “Administrative Code Regulation 225” in particular to section 7.4.1. It appears that the statement beginning “A school may request permission of a parent…” in this subsection worries some who are concerned with the gender identity of students. I believe that …”may…” should be replaced with “…should…”

This request is a judgment call by school authorities. Schools are supposed to be safe environments for their students. In my 33 years of teaching in a high school, this involved me when dealing with students who suffered abuse at home. I was required to report the abuse to my principal who, in turn, was required to notify outside authorities; police, Division of Youth and Family Services and the like. It is not inconceivable that surprised parents/guardians might react by bullying their offspring upon discovering that they might be different from whom they expected.

By law, schools must act in the best interests of their students. Therefore, in order to ease parental shock, the schools should have a qualified counselor attend any meetings with the parents of a student believing himself/herself to be transgender. Counseling could promote an understanding on the part of the parents of what the student is feeling.

Long-term counseling could help all to determine if the student’s belief is transitory, which is not uncommon, or in fact is the result of a genuine inborn trait as natural as left-handedness. Going to www.pbs.org and searching for the documentary “Growing Up Trans” I have learned that some children of elementary school age have self-identified as transgender (without knowing the term.) I saw parents who came to accept their offspring’s belief as fact. These parents gave loving support to the child. I hope this can be true for the very few students in Delaware schools who identify as transgender.

Alan P. Gaddis

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