Ron and Vanessa Ford are the parents of a 5-year-old transgender child, and they recently wrote for The Washington Post about why they appreciate and support the Obama administration’s directive to schools on accommodating transgender students.
For the Fords, the debate about bathroom access is really a debate about discrimination, and about whether the government will or will not sanction discrimination against their child.
“We are an interracial couple,” they wrote. “Fifty years ago, in many places across the country, it would have been legal to discriminate against us because, many people said, a fundamental part of who we are was somehow offensive and perverse. Our daughter is transgender. In many places across the country, it is legal to discriminate against her because, many people say, a fundamental part of who she is somehow offensive and perverse.”
We asked readers to weigh in on how the bathroom debate compares to earlier civil rights debates. There were many responses, representing the wide range of views and strong feelings that have characterized the discussion about transgender rights in America.
It was good to see mostly support from readers, but it wasn’t just support. I dislike reading the non-supportive contributions, but I think it’s important to keep a current insight into how people are not only viewing certain issues, but how they are viewing people. It seems to me that in such views, beyond all the regular reasons for being anti and upset, there’s a distinct current of “no, not human”. This is othering, but it’s taking on an ugly extremism, with people even citing the violence directed at transgender people as a reason to refuse gender dysphoria being real, and gender affirmation as being absolutely wrong. Then there are those who are not concerned with actual people at all, just upset at what they see as co-opting the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.
“I wish we could change our society”
Instead of changing bodies, I wish we could change our society to one that accepted feminine boys and men and masculine girls and women so that no one felt compelled to expose themselves to the risks of life-long hormone administration or the removal of healthy organs.
— 50 years old, Philadelphia
This points to a problem that came up several times in responses. A lot of people feels this is nothing more than gender expression (Hey, I was a tomboy, so what!), and a typical phase of childhood. There is a great deal of ignorance out there, and it isn’t being corrected often enough. Another one with this theme:
“I’m afraid they’re making a terrible mistake”
A 5-year-old transgender?! At 5, I wanted to be a boy. I’m so glad my mother didn’t indulge that. I’d be so screwed up if she had. I’m now a happy healthy adult heterosexual female who is still a bit of a tomboy. Just do gender neutral activities and buy gender neutral clothes until the kid finds out who s/he is. These parents think they’re doing a good thing, but I’m afraid they’re making a terrible mistake.
— 32 years old, Los Angeles
There’s an insistence, on the part of some people, an “oh, I went through that too” thing, when they did not at all go through what transgender people go through. This also points to a serious lack of understanding when it comes to the deep roots of everyday, systemic sexism. Yes, a lot of girls want to be boys, because it’s boys who are the actual humans. That has nothing at all to do with being transgender. It has everything to do with sexism.
And yet, another variation on the same theme:
“We are becoming too permissive with our children”
As a Catholic, and a Christian, I believe we are becoming too permissive with our children. I remember when my sister and I were growing up, we were allowed to play as we wanted. We hung out with boys and dressed in boyish clothes. We played with toys meant for boys. We never doubted the fact that we were girls. Until we come to terms with the fact that a person’s gender cannot completely be changed, nobody will be happy. As for the bathroom, a lady should never be forced to share a bathroom with a man.
— 44 years old, Lubbock, Tex.
In this one though, you have those chromosomes lurking. “You can’t change those!” As if that was some sort of victorious argument.