“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,”Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare (Addendum, Joe Broadmeadow)
“But fundamentally, it would still be a rose.”
At the considerable risk of taking on a subject I may not fully understand—it has never stopped me before, so why worry about it at this stage of the game—this whole gender identification, transgender, fluid gender, gender of the day phenomenon has me a bit befuddled.
Before I am inundated with all sorts of vitriol from they/them, he/she, us/we advocates, I remind you I prefaced this piece by admitting I may not fully understand it, implying I am willing to learn. However, I still have a perspective on these matters and will try to be open-minded.
What provoked this piece was an article in the New York Times (When Students Change Gender Identity, and Parents Don’t Know.)
I read the article and was a bit troubled by the premise that some school districts and the federal government have rules prohibiting parents from being informed if their child identifies as transgender at school and requests the school to keep the matter confidential.
I suppose the argument is valid if this were about an eighteen-year-old adult; adults make their own choices. But a minor child is both the responsibility and obligation of the parent to be involved in such decisions.
That some parents resist the notion of transgender as a scientifically established phenomenon has no bearing on the matter. They are the parents’ responsibility until a child is of age or lawfully emancipated.
Parents need to be involved in these decisions.
Adolescents have a well-established history and pattern of poor decision-making (goodness knows I made my share of questionable choices.) Furthermore, psychologists and other medical professionals agree that decision-making is an underdeveloped ability in adolescents.
It seems oddly incongruous that a parent would be informed of poor academic performance, poor attendance, or disruptive behavior, but the child can opt out of having their parents told they identify as something other than the sexual identity assigned at birth.
When one is born—and even before with ultrasound—the evidence of indoor or outdoor plumbing is pretty apparent (hermaphrodites are a different topic.) Gender assignment is not an arbitrary matter, but one of biology. Now, recognizing the development of nipples in a fetus begins before genetics determines the gender of the embryo (thus the strange phenomenon of men’s nipples which can be displayed in public as opposed to the female, which cannot) there is a clear delineation at birth in the gender department yet some individuals may be born with conflicting physical and psychological gender issues.
I recognize that such physical attributes may mask some differences internally and psychologically. But until one is an adult, exploring such a dramatic lifestyle change indeed mandates parental involvement.
There was a recent case addressing the issue and an amicus brief which does a masterful job of explaining why parental involvement is critical.
JOHN and JANE PARENTS 1 and JOHN PARENT 2,
MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al.,
On appeal from the United States District Court
for the District of Maryland
Case No. 8-20-cv-3552-PWG
The Honorable Paul W. Grimm, Judge
AMICUS BRIEF OF DR. ERICA E. ANDERSON, Ph.D., SUPPORTING APPELLANT AND REVERSAL
Dr. Erica Anderson, Ph.D., a transgender person herself, wrote the brief to support a reversal of policies where parents are not informed by the school district of transgender issues involving their child. Dr. Anderson, who was reluctant to file the brief due to the generally anti-transgender agenda of the law firms involved, thought it a significant enough issue to overcome her initial reluctance and address the matter.
“Transitioning socially, Dr. Anderson wrote, ‘is a major and potentially life-altering decision that requires parental involvement, for many reasons.'”When Students Change Gender Identity, and Parents Don’t Know
What these policies are trying to address are ignorance and bigotry, and in some cases outright hostility. The intent may be for good, but the implementation is catastrophic. Parents, even those who may be closed-minded to discussing the reality of their child’s situation, absent a court finding of parental failure, are entitled to know.
While most of us may never have to deal with such issues, we must keep a perspective while trying to support those in crisis. The fact that transgender people face discrimination and hostility shouldn’t mitigate common sense. You don’t fix a problem by hiding it from the very people most likely to have the greatest influence on the desired outcome; the well-being and psychological health of the child.
Parents need to act lawfully and responsibly in their care and the choices they make for their children. Still, the government has no business deciding what is right or wrong—religion, educational pursuits, and medical care all involve disparate options that are constitutionally guaranteed—absent a clear and present danger.
I may not understand the internal struggle a person dealing with gender issues endures, but I will support them in finding a way through. Yet, until they are adults, the parents must monitor and manage the child’s choice. There are many decisions people make in their lives others may find troubling. Religion, cultural norms, and living arrangements are all subject to the varieties of human choice and they are different for every one of us.
Preventing parents from knowing what their children are going through out of some sense of protecting the child will undoubtedly lead to more significant misunderstanding and turmoil in the lives of those we seek to support.