It’s all old neckless white guys with buzzcuts harassing kids, in my mind

Ken the Hen is exactly right: LEAVE THEM ALONE.

I remember genital inspections — only we called that junior high PE class. I hated it. Being an insecure and introverted adolescent and being told to strip and take a public shower was bad enough, but it was made worse by the swaggering asshole, Mr Earl, who ‘taught’ PE and would stroll through the locker room making comments about everyone’s bodies. He was definitely in the category of “really mean people”, and was probably also a white supremacist — he certainly raved on and on about the Vietnam War — and I’m sure he’d be a TERF, since, although there were very few openly trans folk in my community then, he was dazzlingly homophobic.

OK, maybe that’s my conspiracy theory. The worst people in the world are brutal PE coaches from the 1970s, and now they’re all running the country and sitting in the Missouri legislature passing hate crimes as laws.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    I doubt you could call him a TERF — trans exclusive, sure, but I’ll bet he had nothing but contempt for feminists and women generally.

  2. R. L. Foster says

    You touched a nerve, PZ. I went to DoD schools overseas and my gym teachers were all middle aged war veterans. Cruel assholes to a man. I’ve expunged their names from memory. But I recall one time in Berlin, Germany standing naked in the locker room after a shower and one of these jerks started riffing on the size of my head. Your head is too large for your skinny body, he joked loud enough for all of the boys to hear. That was just the approval they needed to pile on. If he had said my cock was too big for my body I could have taken that.

  3. PaulBC says

    The abusive culture around high school PE put off any interest at all in fitness for many years. Fortunately, I have always liked long walks and bike rides, so I’m doing OK in middle age, probably better than a lot of high school jocks. I don’t think it’s as brutal at my kids’ high school. Even when they were younger and did swimming, they had relative privacy.

  4. PaulBC says

    Oh… I was going to add, one thing I like about the slogan “It Gets Better” is that it’s not just true for LGBTQ youth. It gets better for nearly everyone. If I meet anyone who says high school was the “best years of their life” I’m going to assume they’re part of why it was my worst years. (Caveat: I know some well-adjusted people who probably had an OK time in high school and also treated others with respect, but I still think there’s something wrong if it didn’t get a lot better in adulthood.)

  5. yknot says

    Trans kids get picked on because of our tendency to look for and demonize differences in “others”, to affirm our allegiance to a preferred group. This tendency is at the core of xenophobic prejudices. For trans kids with physical differences, its worse than racism, because their very rarity and personal nature make it hard to find others who “look like” them, while the ritual of middle-school showers makes these differences public knowledge exactly when most kids are desperately trying to pass and be accepted.

  6. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I think TERFs are people who convince themselves Trans are are insincere tricksters out to exploit everyone. Like dominating female sports with their male genes hidden under female disguise. Want men to flirt with them, to give them a big surprise when they reach under the skirt.
    I hesitate to keep going down that path, I’ll summarize about how all these ignore the T, and the struggles they face personally inside themselves, that being T is not really a choice. It is not [Some Like it Hot] where they were just trying to escape the mafia, nor [Bosom Buddies] to get the only spaces in the dorm that was only open to girls. TERFs seem to confuse fiction and reality, this way.
    Latest conspiracy theory

  7. says

    “Brutal PE coaches from the 1970s” is multiply redundant. And leaves out the racism built into the curriculum (for example, the expectation that all students would have basic understanding of and skills at softball/baseball… during the “assimilation” of waves of both Southeast Asian and Central American refugees in the early and mid 1970s).

    And the less said about “grading standards” in PE, the better; due to rampant grade inflation at my high school, the grades in the four required semesters of PE in 9th and 10th grades ended up determining final class rankings.

  8. PaulBC says

    Jaws@8 I’m white and I have no idea why I was expected to know the rules of baseball, basketball, etc. Do people think it’s genetic? I don’t come from a sports family. My father and I talked about books and math puzzles.

  9. says

    I remember the sadist we had as a PE coach in the 1960’s. He’d take great delight in circuit training with a series of high intensity repetitive exercises capped off by a sprint the full length of the football field then a run around the perimeter of the school, a distance of about 1.5 miles. All to be completed within a specified time. The irony was he was about 40, moderately obese and a smoker. If he attempted any of the tortures he put us through he would have dropped dead with a heart attack. I hated running and competitive sports. The irony was I regularly walked the 5km to school instead of taking the train and on weekends i would bushwalk anywhere between 12 and 30 km when I wasn’t working part time as a builders labourer. Stacking bricks and 1 hundredweight bags of cement and concrete meant I was fitter than most of the jocks on the football team.

  10. mailliw says

    In the future sports should be grouped by the size and weight of the people playing rather than by male and female.

  11. spookiewon says

    Why do so many comments on this post miss the fact that it’s about transness, not race or PE class? I go to a great deal of trouble not to derail discussions that are about race by bringing in trans issues, so it would be great if the few discussions that exist about transness weren’t derailed.

  12. blf says

    PaulBC@10, As it happened, I knew the baseball rules rather well, since my father was an umpire in various lower leagues and I’d read the MLB rulebook (of the time) cover-to-cover. However, I wasn’t any good at all at the game, and simply had no idea at all about gridiron, basketball, or soccer — the rules, skills, etc., and could not play any of them at all. (To this day, I don’t even consider either gridiron or (professional) soccer a sport.) I’d heard of rugby, but understood they’d only recently disallowed edged weapons. I’d also heard of cricket, but didn’t understand it then either.

    To the annoyance of everyone — even the coach, who was actually quite a decent dedicated gentleman — at Junior High (this was in the States) there were no showers. (I don’t know the story behind that, but as the school was a new-build, suspect “cost cutting”… or, possibly, as it much later emerged, maybe corruption in the relevant local “government” department.) There were showers at the neighboring new-build High School, but the layout of the locker room discouraged shy boys from using them, not to mention the antics of a few “jocks” out-of-sight of the coaches / PE “instructors”.

    At both schools, “track and field” was (mostly) running around the largely unsuitable (i.e., cheaply-built and uneven) tracks.

  13. PaulBC says

    spookiewon@13 Point taken, but PZ already extended the discussion to PE class before looping back to trans students. I have no experience and therefore nothing of interest to say about trans issues. Yes, I can shut up and will do so forthwith on this discussion.

  14. dstatton says

    In all the articles about trans kids playing sports, none have asked the other student athletes what they thought. Perhaps it’s because they don’t really give a shit.

  15. =8)-DX says

    @brucegee1962 #1 TERFs also have nothing but contempt for actual feminists and women generally, so that’s pretty accurate.

  16. says

    PaulBC @10: No, I don’t think it’s genetic. The PE teachers, on the other hand…

    Spookiewon @13: Without actual knowledge (hey, it was the 70s, nobody actually talked about this) and based only on suspicion, those PE grades were an issue for one classmate who may — no clue as to was, I’ve had no contact with anyone from my high school for nearly four decades — have been LGBTQ and suffered poor PE grades and a drop in class rank for it. That may have been the difference between the top-tier state university and a second-tier state college that that individual actually attended. (Because if you weren’t in the top fifteen or so of my high school graduating class, you weren’t getting in to any of the competitive-entry programs at the top-tier state university; it was a crummy high school.)

  17. says

    @#17, PZ Myers:

    In case anybody was unaware: square dancing in US schools was co-invented and then heavily promoted in the 40s by Henry Ford, as an early antisemitic “culture war” issue (long before that was an accepted term, obviously). He believed that jazz music was a Jewish plot to undermine white culture, and pushed for square dancing in schools as an antidote. here’s a Twitter rant about it, with sources.

  18. asclepias says

    My dearly departed grandpa referred to them as “classic Illinois (or Iowa, or Minnesota, or Wisconsin, insert your state here) no-necks”.

  19. vucodlak says

    No one showered, or even got naked, in junior high or high school PE at the schools I attended. PE was the second period (out of nine) of the day at my first junior high/high school, too. There were showers in the locker room, but no one used them. I didn’t even really change clothes- I wore my PE clothes under my regular clothes, which wasn’t much fun in the first and last months of school.

    Some parents found out about the no-showering thing, and got mad about it. They tried to force the school to require us to undergo the same humiliations* they’d been required to, but that only got as far as the PE teacher telling us we could shower if we wanted to. However, no one was actually given time to do so.

    The district PE teacher was, of course, a jerk, but he wasn’t as bad as PZ’s teacher. Probably for the best, as I’d likely have gotten expelled. I was infamous for picking fights with teachers when I thought they were picking on kids, even when they weren’t picking on me. Not that my motives were all that pure- I just hated** and mistrusted adults on general principle.

    *Although I rather suspect that the parents who were pushing hard this for were likely the ones doing the humiliating back their day.
    **Having been an “adult” for roughly half my life, now, hasn’t done a lot to change that.

  20. brightmoon says

    Hated gym mainly because of the hideous gym onesie uniforms that looked good on no one . I left mine in the lockers that very very last day of school. For some odd reason even though both school colors were red and white , in junior high I wore a royal blue one and in high school it was a soft green. We were never given time to shower in either junior high or high school (gave away my age there). As far as overt homophobia I only remember my uncle and my father being ranting foaming at the mouth homophobes . This being 1960s and 1970s NYC no one really cared

  21. Silentbob says

    @ 12 mailliw

    No it’s not that simple. For one thing the lean body mass to total weight ratio is higher in post-pubertal male assigned people than female assigned people. Or to put it more crudely, tits ain’t muscles.

    There are also social factors. Many women would not want to compete against men in contact sports that involve tackling, because it could turn into a groper’s paradise.

    (Lest I be misunderstood, I agree with the consensus of every major women’s and women’s sports group in supporting trans participation in sport. Here I’m talking about cis men vs cis women.)

  22. flange says

    I’ve always been shy, insecure, and introverted. I’ve never had a jock’s body. In high school, boys swimming class and showers were in the nude. This was in the 1950s. It was traumatic for me. The PE coach made a point of undressing in front of the class. I thought it was more than weird at the time.
    I’ve hated the PE coach mentality since grade school. It seemed like that was the defining culture of the US. I suspect PE coaches are all Republicans.

  23. DLC says

    I still don’t understand this need to compel hormonal, angst-ridden, sexually and socially immature early teens to go into a room, undress, and shower together.

  24. says

    It didn’t bother me, but I was on a swim team at an early age. Showered to try to keep the pool clean, and clean off the chlorine afterwards.