Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Making a Path to Acceptance a Bit Easier

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Making a Path to Acceptance a Bit Easier

I'm a parent to a transgender daughter in fifth grade in FCPS.

I'm disappointed but not surprised by the Family Foundation's lawsuit. While I ruffle at the perpetuation of myths surrounding trans and gender-expansive youths (along with continued arguments based on "biological sex"), there is a part of me that wants their concerns aired out and examined. I've personally tried to have these conversations with concerned citizens, including faith leaders because I think there is common ground in protecting students from trauma. The piece they are missing is that all children want to feel safe in shared spaces such as locker rooms and bathrooms, and casting transgender students as the cause of this trauma is misplaced.

As to privacy concerns, I look to Gavin Grimm and the invasions he faced at the hands of "concerned citizens," and I want to agree that children and students, cis and trans deserve privacy, which means not classifying them by the body parts they possess. I think the Model Guidelines are important to start these conversations and listen to each other. But I absolutely stand behind trans students first and foremost, particularly those living in abusive home situations that necessitate the school's delicate handling of their gender identity and to whom that information is disclosed.

These policies will save lives, but I hope they also serve to educate people who have never sat in a room with a transgender person and listened to their experiences with an open heart. When I hear a fearful speech about including trans students with their cis peers, I hear echoes of those arguments some white folks made to protest desegregation and integration in schools. That's the lens through which I view this vital step forward.

What I hope comes out of these policies is increased awareness about the experiences of our transgender students. To keep their needs in mind just as we keep other diverse students in mind. As a parent to a child who socially transitioned in elementary school, my wish was that her transition had not been the first time her school administration had sat with these questions about what is equitable and right.

FCPS has been very accepting, but we still faced challenges when it came to explaining pronouns to teachers and administrators and advocating for my daughter to use the bathroom that made her comfortable. (She never used the restroom at school, which was very concerning to me as a parent. In part, this is because her principal voiced concerns in front of my daughter about her using the girls' restroom.) The public's education on trans issues should not be resting on the shoulders of trans students alone. These policies lighten the load and make their difficult path toward acceptance a bit easier.

FCPS has been amazing at listening to the guidance and beginning the process of training faculty and staff about the issues trans students face. I hold them to a high standard, and they have really shown up for my student. Even when there are bumps in the road, my daughter has been overwhelmingly supported and accepted.

Olivia Johnson