CNN Legal Analyst Peddles Misinformation About Transgender Students, Gender Identity

CNN legal analyst Paul Callan criticized a recently enacted California law that will allow transgender students to have access to facilities and sports teams that correspond to their gender identity, arguing that non-discrimination law had moved too quickly with respect to transgender elementary school students.

During the August 13 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Ashleigh Banfield invited Callan and criminal defense attorney Danny Cevallos to discuss the recently enacted law. Cevallos warned that the measure might “infring[e] on the privacy of other children,” asserting - without evidence or explanation - that the mere presence of a transgender student would be enough to violate other students' privacy rights.

Callan echoed his concerns, suggesting that protections for transgender students had “moved a little too fast in this area” and questioning if children in the first grade could even be identified as transgender:

CALLAN: Pardon my lack of political correctness on this, but when I hear that a first grader is a girl trapped in a boy's body or vice versa and wants to use the girls room as opposed to the boys room I wonder if the science sort of has kept up with where society is on this issue. I think a lot of people would be very upset if they thought their first grade child, girl, was going be in the bathroom with a boy who thinks he's a girl. And I think maybe the law has moved a little too fast in this area, at least with respect to elementary school students.

BANFIELD: Not if you're transgender. No, you have been discriminated against openly for your whole life.

CALLAN: Oh, no, no. That's fine when we get old, older, maybe into adolescence and gender identity is clear. I'm not so sure gender identity is clear in the first grade.

Gender identity is generally established in children by age 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and transgender children typically express a consistent, stable gender identity over time. Parents of transgender youth report that their children display prolonged, vehement objections to being identified as their biological sex, with some very young children threatening to mutilate their own genitals in order to match their gender identity. In other words, students who identify as transgender aren't just making things up on a whim, as Callan - who is not a child development expert, by the way - suggests.

Transgender students face extremely high levels of bullying, harassment, and discrimination in school environments. Allowing them to access appropriate school facilities isn't an example of schools moving “a little too fast” to implement a new policy - it's a common sense way to make sure that a transgender female isn't taunted and humiliated when she's forced to use a male-only bathroom. As the Colorado Rights Division recently ruled, barring transgender youth from using the correct facilities “creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating, or offensive." 

This is what happens when a network like CNN lets people who aren't experts comment on protections for a vulnerable group of students. They make uninformed, fear-based objections that contradict expert opinion and play into right-wing myths about transgender people.

But it could be worse. At least CNN didn't follow up its misleading segment with commentary from a known anti-LGBT hate monger, right? Right?