Bear Creek High School prides itself on diversity. The campus is occupied by a variety of students, each differing in personality, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, and gender. But as the concept of gender identity beyond the basic male and female arises in classrooms, concerns regarding comfort and fairness surface as well.
To address certain problems with intolerance in federally funded institutions, including public schools, the US Department of Education has issued a new transgender guidance, explained in a Dear Colleague letter.
This letter recommends that federally funded school districts should prohibit discrimination against transgender students.
Institutions that receive federal funds are not legally required to follow the guidelines explained in the Dear Colleague letter. However, they are at risk of losing said funds if they do not follow the regulations set to protect transgender students from discrimination.
Most experts agree that being transgender is a product of gender dysphoria, which is the feeling that one’s physical and emotional identity as male or female is opposite to one’s biological sex, and that is a common misconception that gender and sex are one in the same. Biological sex has attributes such as anatomy, hormones, and chromosomes that are assigned at birth to inform whether a person is male, female, or intersex; gender identity is described as a person’s internal sense of being a man, a woman, neither, or both.
However, not everyone agrees with that differentiation. In an editorial in “The Wall Street Journal” titled “Obama’s Transgender ‘Guidance,’” the editorial board cited an article by Dr. Paul McHugh, a Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, who says, “The idea of gender is as subjective as ‘personal’ has no basis in science.”
It is a common opinion that a transgendered person’s internal sense of gender is just a belief. Others object to the guidance as more federal overreach into schools.
Some studies on the brain suggest gender identity is not just a social construct. Transgender people’s brains tend to have characteristics similar to that of the sexes that correspond to their gender identity. For example, thin subcortical areas in the right region of the brain, which is a characteristic of a female brain, can be found in brains of male-to-female transgenders.
According to the Dear Colleague letter, transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms consistent with their identified gender. This raises concerns among students regarding the safety and comfort when mixing sexes in public bathrooms locker rooms and sports teams, as some states, like Texas, have threatened to forfeit its federal funding.
“[Transgender students] should [use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity] at their own risk because there are always going to be people who are not going to like it,” junior Jordan Harris said.
If any student faces harassment in a school bathroom, it is the school’s job to properly address the situation and take action to prevent it.
Another aspect known to spark controversy among students is allowing transgender students to participate in sex-segregated sports teams as the gender they identify with. Some students see this as an issue because formally being the opposite gender could give a transgender student unfair advantages or disadvantages when playing.
For example, the world record for women’s professional pitching is around 70 miles per hour and the average male’s professional pitch is around 90 miles per hour.
“As a woman, I would feel bad if [a transgender female] occupied my spot on a team,” junior Marso Beltran said.
These certain aspects lead many students to wonder if it is fair to have transgender students participate on teams opposite their natural born sex.
Bear Creek, along with other public schools, is not a religious institution. So, even if being transgender goes against personal beliefs, the school cannot excuse discrimination.
“We are a public institution, so if you have beliefs that make you against a certain person, I will not say you are wrong, but you can’t exercise them in the classroom,” theatre teacher Cassie Champeau said.