Transgender mom harassed for helping with school field trip
Further notes from the pronoun-challenged mainstream news media
Articles like this REALLY make me want to get out a red pen and start crossing out all the pronouns. Anyway, I've reproduced most of the piece, with my comments interspersed. From the Los Angeles Times:
Transgender Chaperon Ignites School DisputeAlready they've got me pissed off. The headline seems to be vaguely respectful, using "transgender" instead of "transvestite," but it only takes them a few words to assert that this woman is "really" a man dressed as a woman. If you read the rest of the article, however, you learn that she has lived full-time as a woman for six years at her workplace and at home. So we might rewrite this subhead "Some insist on a rule on 'appropriate' attire after a transgender mom wears her normal clothes on a school field trip."
Some insist on a rule on 'appropriate' attire after a dad dressed as a woman goes on trip.
ST. LOUIS -- The fourth-grade field trip to the state Capitol was going well: The kids gaped at the rotunda, peeked in the Senate chambers, listened politely to a lecture on how a bill becomes law.Then someone noticed that the parent chaperon with the gorgeous hair and tasteful makeup was a dad.OK, red pen time. "Then someone noticed that the parent chaperon with the gorgeous hair and tasteful makeup seemed to be biologically male."
Most of the kids on the trip, apparently, either did not notice or did not care that a classmate's father was dressed as a woman, in jeans, a sweater and nice shoes. Most of the teachers, apparently, were equally untroubled.I also generally feel pretty unconcerned when a classmate's parent is wearing jeans and a sweater and nice shoes. Man, how dare she wear "nice shoes"! She might give children the wrong ideas! It is good to hear that most of the teachers were "untroubled", as they should be. What is "troubling" isn't that a parent should want to give her time to help chaperon a class field trip... what's troubling is what happened next.
But when the fourth-graders returned from Jefferson City, Mo., that afternoon in mid-October, the parent chaperon who had spotted the "cross-dressing dad" alerted some friends. Word spread quickly though the Francis Howell School District, in the middle-class suburb of St. Charles. The resulting tumult has not yet subsided.If I were one of these parents, I'd be much more concerned about my children being "exposed" to the bigotry of a campaign like this.
Alarmed, outraged and indignant, several parents demanded that the school board look into the matter. They found a receptive audience in board member Lisa Naeger, a mother of two who recoiled at the thought of her 9-year-old being exposed to a transgender adult on a field trip.
"I don't think it's fair to the kids or to the parents," Naeger said. "Parents have a right to make the decision about how their children are to be exposed to these issues. It's crucial that we make a stand."
Naeger has proposed a new policy that would require parent chaperons to wear "gender-appropriate" clothing for school functions. It's unlikely, however, that such wording would survive a court challenge. In 1985, a federal court struck down an obscure (and rarely used) St. Louis ordinance that banned anyone from dressing in clothing "not according to his or her sex" while out in public.Oh, this is just brilliant. God forbid children learn to accept and appreciate people who don't fit rigidly-defined gender roles! I'm sure a few decades ago, some parents would have removed their children if an interracial couple tried to chaperone a field trip. And what about moms (biologically female or not) who don't wear makeup or dresses or "nice shoes"? What about dads who have pierced ears? I remember when I was in elementary school and the mayor of Lowell, Tarsy Poulios, tried to make a law saying boys couldn't wear earrings to school because "we wouldn't be able to tell who was a boy and who was a girl." This, apparently, was a real educational crisis. Was this mother's crime that she couldn't perfectly pass as a proper female? This all makes my head hurt.
Naeger expects the board to make a decision by mid-January; she is not optimistic that her colleagues will back her request. But a handful of fired-up parents is not willing to let the matter drop.
The parents have asked the district to let them know whenever the father in question visits Castlio Elementary School, so they can withdraw their children from class. And they are pleading for a dress code that would require all adults who interact with students to "dress in what a 9- or 10-year-old perceives as normal clothes for a man or a woman," as mother Patti Hight puts it.
"This individual did not use common sense. He did not put the children first. He did not think how this would confuse them," said Hight.SHE, SHE, SHE!!!! But even aside from pronouns, this makes my blood boil. Sounds to me like this transgender mom was doing nothing but putting children first, by volunteering her own time to help take the children on a trip. If anyone needs a dose of common sense, it's these hysterical parents.
Her daughter did not notice the cross-dressed dad during the daylong field trip. Still, Hight said she's furious to think that, if her daughter had noticed, had raised a question, it would have fallen to a stranger to explain transsexualism. "He shouldn't have put the other parent chaperons or the educators in the position of having to explain such a controversial lifestyle," Hight said.Yeah, because parents who don't want their children "exposed" to transgender people can explain it so much better! I can see it now: "You see Bobby, I know your teacher told you that tolerance and diversity are good, but men who wear women's clothes don't count as diverse because they're trying to warp your weak little mind into wearing nice shoes."
The father has not been identified.You mean, "The transgender mom has not been identified." Grammar, people, grammar!
But sources who know him said he has dressed as a woman at work for at least six years, keeping his hair long, wearing slacks and blouses and using a name that could be either male or female. Actively involved in his daughters' education, he has volunteered in their schools, attended their concerts and conferred with their teachers while in women's attire -- without any backlash, until now.Sounds like an ideal parent to me. Anyway, this information from "sources" suggests that rather than being a man who occasionally crossdresses (which would make the pronoun issue a bit more complicated), this parent is a mother who lives full-time as a woman and identifies as such. The nice thing is that it sounds like most of the school thought so too.
"This guy was not a disruption," said Jon Bennett, a school board member. "He didn't show up wearing a skintight leather dress and fishnet stockings."How about one who made transphobic remarks?
"It wasn't obvious at all," added Karen Finch, a special-education teacher who went on the field trip. "I'm not going to say I get it. I don't. But that doesn't matter. It's a free country.
"We're just a Midwestern, conservative, middle-class white neighborhood -- this isn't San Francisco, you know -- but the staff at the school is supportive of this man. The teachers accept him. A few parents just freaked out and now it's blown up out of proportion."
The father's supporters point out that teachers already have the right to remove any volunteer who disrupts the educational process. A parent who cross-dressed so flamboyantly that kids couldn't pay attention to their lessons could be asked to leave. So could a chaperon who made racist remarks.
If he were barred from volunteering in the schools, his supporters ask, what would stop the district from excluding a lesbian couple, or an interracial couple, or any other parents whose lifestyles or orientations some would regard as controversial?Hear, hear. But whether or not this nasty proposal gets shot down or not, I somehow doubt this transgender mom is going to feel very comfortable coming in to volunteer or talk with teachers or attend her children's concerts or school plays any more. Which is sad, because what we need is more parents who care about and are involved in their children's education, not less. Now that's what I call leaving no children behind!
"We don't have the right to discriminate, and we shouldn't," Bennett said.
Transgender advocates point out too that to qualify for sex-change surgery, individuals first go through a prolonged period of "transition," when they present themselves in public as the gender they hope to become.
"They can't just arbitrarily switch back and forth to appease parents on a field trip," said Vanessa Edwards Foster, founder of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition.
P.S. This sort of thing reminds me how lucky I am to have a dad who made me watch Eyes on the Prize every year when I was a kid. I have this really vivid memory from when I was in elementary school of sitting on the rug and watching a comedy sketch with a character who was an over-the-top drooling evil nasty gay stereotype (the show was In Living Color; the actor was Jim Carrey). My dad asked me to change the channel because it was "homophobic," which he explained meant it was hateful towards gay people.