Earlier this month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the School Success and Opportunity Act, which enforces the respect of transgender students’ gender identities in public school programs, activities and facilities. Although certain school boards in California had policies that allowed transgender students to participate in sports and use bathrooms that correlate with their gender identity, this policy is now required statewide. This law is much more than common sense rights for the transgender community; it is a much-needed step toward a more tolerant and open-minded society that should be considered for Florida’s public schools.
Society imposes two gender categories: male and female. This classification is simple but restricting. The sociologically imposed black and white of gender identity leaves little room for anything that deviates from the status quo. The current standard for determining whether someone is male or female relies solely on their biology, rather than their gender. However, for transgender individuals — those who are biologically male or female but identify themselves as the opposite gender — joining a sport team or using a bathroom can be confusing and potentially traumatizing. Instead of forcing transgender students to fit the strict mold of their biological sex, allowing them to be who they are and select the environment that makes them feel the most comfortable is the right thing to do.
Forty-one percent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide, mostly due to the confusion and ridicule they face regularly. If students are taught at a younger age that gender identity is not exclusively male and female, there will be more understanding and acceptance of the transgender community. Most significantly, transgender male and females will feel less marginalized by society, which could potentially lower the number of suicide attempts and save lives.
Those who oppose transgender rights to join activities and use facilities based on gender identity worry about the potential abuse of this law. Hypothetical questions have been raised, like “What if a boy just says he is a girl one day so he can go into the girls’ bathroom?” Although their concern is understandable, it is misguided. In all the school districts that already grant transgender students the right to choose a sports team or bathroom that correlates with their gender identity, there have not been any cases of abuse. With the negative social stigma and ridicule associated with being transgender, it is highly unlikely that a student would pretend to be transgender to invade the privacy of other students.
However, there should still be a way to prevent potential abuse. Here is a simple suggestion: student records should list a student’s biological sex and gender identity. Any changes to a student’s record must go through the parents or legal guardian.
It is time for society to take the next step toward transgender tolerance. Acceptance of transgender identity in schools is not a safety concern; it is a simple right of expression that will save lives and create a more open-minded society.