Debates over California’s AB 1266, which is scheduled to go into effect in California in January 2014, are bringing out troubling arguments against transgender students in California.
AB 1266 restates existing state and federal laws that ensure transgender students can fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities that match their gender identity.
Katherine Svenson, a Delta County, Colorado, school board member, recently made her stand against transgender students at a school board meeting:
I would like to pass out something that shows people what is going on in the rest of the country. Massachusetts and California have passed laws relating to calling a student, irrespective of his biological gender, letting him perform as the gender he thinks he is, or she is, and I want to emphasize, and they’re actually talking about joining girls sports teams going in the girls locker rooms and bathrooms, and I just want to emphasize not in this district. Not until the plumbing’s changed. There would have to be castration in order to pass something like that around here.
Sadly, this sort of statement is not uncommon lately. Such arguments stem from the efforts of Privacy For All Students, a political organization working to overturn the new California law.
Arguments from opponents like Svenson are troubling for a number of reasons. First, they demonstrate and work to instill an ugly anger at and fear of transgender people. “They’re coming to get us,” this argument says: “They’re going to try to let some transsexual urinate near you beloved children.” Feel the horror.
These arguments tap into every toxic narrative about trans people, especially trans women.
They say that we’re either confused or deceptive, and they claim there is something inherently threatening about trans people. Just look at what Svenson’s comment about castration—that’s a violent word right there.
When asked about her comment, Svenson said, “I don’t have a problem if some boys think they are girls, I’m just saying as long as they can impregnate a woman, they’re not going to go in girls locker-room.”
Her arguments imply trans girls should be treated as rapists and sterilized as children. These arguments keep making appearances in discussions of trans people’s rights: “How do we know that trans people are really what they say they are?” “How do we know that trans people aren’t just predators pretending to be someone they are not?”
As a trans woman, I often don’t know quite what to say in these situations.
How exactly can I prove I’m not a dangerous pervert? I can try to be charming, I can tell my story about always knowing I was a girl while I was growing up, or I can talk about being an Iraq War veteran or Christian or a small business person to tout my “nice, normal person” credentials.
Still, at the end of the day, I’m trans, and how does the world know if being trans is ok or not? I do not have some sort of certificate signed by God saying, “I do avow that S. Vivian Taylor is, in fact, a woman—so stop going on about it.”
As Christians, we are called to love all people like ourselves. Part of loving people is to give them a chance, to value their personal experience even when it’s something you have trouble fully grasping. If someone has experience and lives into that experience fully, who are any of us to tell them they are false?
Bills like AB 1266 do incredible work to protect young trans people, to stop bullying and other violence against young trans people. There is no evidence to support that transgender inclusion puts anyone else at risk, when in fact, not protecting trans students leaves them in harm’s way. As followers of Christ, we must protect and support all people.
We must seek the truth and reject dishonest horror stories about people that are so often misunderstood.
If you are a Christian, I am asking you as your sister in Christ to listen to trans people instead of the people who fear us as you consider our rights and our place in the world.
Image via flickr user 19secondslow