Thursday, June 12, 2014

We're in, we're out.

It’s a dizzying time for trans people.

Vancouver parent's opposed to trans inclusive policy, June 11, 2014

Last night I attended a meeting at the Vancouver School Board (VSB) as it listened to the final presentation from medical experts. The issue being considered is the revision of a VSB policy that has been in place since 2004 that spells out the district's guidelines for providing a safe, positive environment for transgender and gender-variant students in all grades, from kindergarten to grade 12. According to the associate superintendent, “The biggest change, really, was about getting some clarity of language.”

This simple administrative procedure became the entrĂ©e for a well-organized and vocal group of conservative parents who self-describe themselves as Chinese evangelical Christians. They used this as an opportunity to lobby against the adoption of the proposed updated policy, arguing that this policy took away their rights as parents and guardians to decide what was best for their children. It's unfortunate these parents are using both the race and religion cards.

They demanded more scientific research and that the BC Medical Association and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC to weigh in on this issue. While claiming that they care about transgender students, the truth is they don't want their children to be subjected to having trans and gender-variant students in their classrooms.

What they seem unwilling to recognize is that the original policy has been in place for several years and that the policy aligns with both Federal and Provincial guidelines with respect to the school boards responsibility to provide a safe space for all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity and is in keeping with both the Federal and Provincial human rights codes.

Additionally, the policy has the full support of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, designated by the Provincial Health Ministry to oversee these kinds of things. In other words, all the demands these parents are making have been met already, years ago.

This policy not only protects students who are LGBTQ2S+, but also those who are perceived as such. This is an  important qualifier in the language of the policy; there have been instances of students who are "straight" but for what ever reason are perceived as gay or lesbian, or some other letter in the "alphabet soup," who have been bullied or made to feel unsafe at school.

This was the fourth and final public meeting before the proposed updated policy goes to a vote next week. In the previous meetings, the board patiently listened to countless persons who spoke passionately for and against this policy. At the end of the meeting last night, all of the trustees had a chance to make a final comment and each one, without exception, thanked all who made presentations and shared their stories, including a Chinese mom of a young trans boy who eloquently shared her family's story of acceptance. With the exception of two of the nine trustees, all said they would be voting in favor of the proposed updates to the policy.

What is the fear?

You only have to engage some of the parents in conversation to realize how much misinformation exists about transgender person and issues. The persistent fear is that their children will be turned into transgender persons by the school staff.

I was flabbergasted when I asked one of the mothers whose name tag said "Organizer" if she knew any transgender persons. I recognized a slight language barrier so I asked the question again. She nodded that she did, but still wanting to make sure she understood my question, I asked her if she knew them personally. She answered that she felt sorry for them and added, "I don't want to become trans, and I don't want my children to be made transgender. Schools should be about education." Oh, the irony.

The irony too is that within a week of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruling that people receiving Medicare may no longer be automatically rejected for coverage of sex reassignment surgery, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution that opposes attempts to change a person's "bodily identity" through such treatments as gender reassignment surgery and adds "God's good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one's self-perception" and "we continue to oppose steadfastly all efforts by any court or state legislature to validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy."

We're in, we're out.