(If you came searching for ALO's Barbeque, click the word. It's a good song, that's why I borrowed it's lyrics.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Into the third month in middle school Janet has been asked "Did you used to be a boy? Did you have surgery?"  It made me wonder if their parents think Janet had surgery. If so, then they might think we are barbaric, sinners, or guilty of child abuse. Parents' perceptions will influence how their children treat Janet. (Note: You cannot perform "bottom surgery" on any individual under 18, nor would we ever consider it in the first place.)

Even as we hope Janet always feels safe and not discriminated against, we try to teach her to shake it off, reinforcing the idea that it's no big deal. A character in John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent says, when he is called "kid,"
If I had any real dignity, I wouldn't think about it. I nearly forgot something my father told me not long before he died. He said the threshold of insult is in direct relation to intelligence and security. He said the words 'son of a bitch' are only an insult to a man who isn't quite sure of his mother.
Last week the principal called me in. She told me that a parent had complained that her daughter was "creeped out" when Janet was in the restroom the same time she was. The mother said that in elementary school the policy had been for Janet to use the nurse's bathroom and she didn't know why the middle school hadn't continued this policy. (Actually, there never was such a policy, she just went in practice.) The parent was concerned that Janet might exit the stall just as a classmate was adjusting her bra (horrors!) or other article of clothing (as if!)

The principal, an amazing woman, told me that she was never allowed to divulge information about a student with other people. She just wanted to see what my thoughts and reactions were. We discussed how Janet's sexual preference (who she likes) appears to be boys; plenty of lesbians use the girls' room without incident; and there are, without a doubt, intersex children who use the restrooms.

At first I thought the parent needed to be educated. But really, it's none of her business--education could emphasize Janet's being "different." The principal agreed but reminded me that she still had to address the fact that a student was uncomfortable. That's when I had an "aha!" moment. I suggested she say, "I can never discuss another student with a parent, but if your child ever feels uncomfortable using the girls' room, she is welcome to use the nurse's bathroom." Hah!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I read the news today, oh boy...

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.---Andy Warhol
It all started with a letter. Our principal, well-intentioned--although I believe misguided--decided he had to send a letter to the third grade parents saying, "We recently became informed that one of our third-grade students is a transgender child. Transgender individuals have a biological gender that does not match their gender identity, etc.." He felt he had to let the parents know that the school would be talking to their children, and give them the opportunity to opt out. Do you think the principal would have informed the parents that a child had diabetes? In fact by law he wouldn't be allowed to. The loop hole was that he didn't name names, but it still brought unfair attention to Janet.