The Washington Post's editorial board denounced the “fear-mongering” that “has become a staple” of debates over transgender student rights and led to “tragic discrimination” against transgender students. The fearmongering is based on the debunked “bathroom” myth hyped by right-wing media.
Conservative media have repeatedly and falsely claimed that anti-discrimination policies that protect transgender students would be exploited by students who will pretend pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into restrooms or locker rooms of the opposite sex and behave inappropriately. The myth has been thoroughly debunked by schools and experts from cities and states across the country with existing protections for transgender students.
In a November 17 editorial, the WaPo's editorial board slammed the bathroom myth “fear-mongering” that has “unfortunately become a staple” of the debate surrounding equal-protection for transgender students, while shining a light on how these myths can dangerously foster discrimination against and stigmatization of students. The Post highlighted the “tragic discrimination” an Illinois transgender student encountered after she asked “to change clothes privately within the girls' locker room,” noting that accommodating transgender students is a “critical matter for school districts everywhere” and calling for schools to replace “emotion with reason:”
To understand the bid of a female transgender student to use the girls' locker room at her suburban Chicago high school, it is necessary to get past all the fear-mongering that unfortunately has become a staple of these debates about bathrooms. Listen instead to what this young girl has told school officials: about having her own sense of privacy, about being isolated and ostracized and about how all she wants is “to be a girl like every other girl.”
It's mystifying that some solution couldn't be reached between the two parties, but details of the two-year investigation prompted by the girl's complaint paint a far different picture than that suggested by the rhetoric of school officials. How the girl, who is undergoing hormone therapy and is recognized by the school as a female in all other respects (including her use of bathrooms), first asked -- and was denied -- an opportunity to change clothes privately within the girls' locker room in an area such as a restroom stall. How the school's insistence she use separate facilities for the past two years has stigmatized her. It is clear from the government's investigation, which included inspection of the facilities and interviews with school staff about conduct common in the locker rooms, that the privacy of all students could be protected without singling out this girl for separate and discriminatory treatment. It is a point that was underscored by the hundreds of students and community members who signed a student-led petition in support of her access to the locker room.
It is estimated that there are very small numbers of transgender students, but as school superintendent Daniel E. Cates pointed out in his public statements, figuring out how to best accommodate them is an emerging and critical matter for school districts everywhere. Those challenges, though, are nothing compared with the difficulties that confront transgender adolescents, so it's important that schools set the example by replacing emotion with reason.
The Post's calls for equality for transgender students are backed by the collective experience of 17 school districts around the nation that have implemented policies protecting transgender students with no negative consequences, and falls during Transgender Awareness Week, which according to LGBT media advocacy organization GLAAD, “help[s] raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people.”