Transgender bill is misguided

Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Transgender bill is misguided

AS I SEE IT

By Chanel Prunier

Outraged mothers recently led a fight to defeat a similar bill in

New Hampshire, citing the potential for abuse by predators, and the dangerous ambiguity of who is legally transgendered and who is not.

Who has more rights in our society? Normal 10-year-old girls who want privacy in their elementary school’s girls’ room? Or a gender-confused boy who insists on using that same restroom?

A hearing is scheduled for today before the Judiciary Committee on H.1728, the Transgender Bill, otherwise known as the Bathroom Bill. This legislation would protect the rights of people with Gender Identity Disorder (cross-dressers, those changing their gender surgically, or simply those who “feel” differently-gendered) to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, and shelters reserved for the opposite sex. Transgendered is self-defined by the claimant, and based solely on one’s conception of oneself on that particular day. There’s no requirement of a doctor’s proclamation, surgery, or hormone therapy.

Outraged mothers recently led a fight to defeat a similar bill in New Hampshire, citing the potential for abuse by predators, and the dangerous ambiguity of who is legally transgendered and who is not. Two recent news stories, one from the Boston University campus and one from the Cape Cod town of Brewster, show that Peeping Toms are certainly a worthwhile concern for women here in Massachusetts.

But it is the potential impact on our educational system and municipalities that poses the greatest danger from this ill-conceived legislation. In a stunning case out of Bangor, Maine, where legislation similar to our Massachusetts transgender bill has passed, the state’s Human Rights Commission has just ruled in favor of an elementary school-aged boy petitioning for access to the girls’ bathroom.

The fifth-grade boy had been using the girls’ bathroom due to his gender issues. Let’s leave aside for a minute the idea of a 10-year-old being indulged in this manner, and look solely at the school’s dealing with this difficult situation.

School officials attempted to accommodate all students and protect the boy from harassment by creating a completely separate bathroom for the boy, protecting the privacy rights and modesty of prepubescent little girls, as well as the safety of the boy. In response, the boy’s parents petitioned Maine’s Human Rights Commission to restore access for him to the girls’ room due to his “identifying” as a girl, despite the wishes of the other parents. The school fought the boy’s parents and lost, in a ruling that’s been dubbed “likely to impact all schools in Maine.”

Melissa Hewey, attorney for the Orono School Department, told the Bangor Daily News that the ruling was “a huge leap.”

“I’m not sure that it takes into account practicalities that face educators around the state,” she said. “You can understand [the ruling] intellectually. You can agree with it intellectually. But practice is sometimes different – and I think that’s what may have escaped some people in this case.”

It is the practicalities she speaks of that I hope our elected officials will take into account when they hear the Massachusetts bill today.

Intellectually, no one supports “discrimination,” as the bill’s authors will claim it’s about. They’ll cite examples of violence and harassment – all already illegal – that transgendered individuals face. Citizens with Gender Identity Disorder do deserve our compassion, but our laws should not be changed to accommodate them at the expense of others.

The Maine ruling and Massachusetts H.1728 set the stage for municipalities being forced to pay damages for discrimination and civil rights violations – simply for sending a gender-confused child to a unisex single-person restroom.

The Orono School Department tried to do the right thing for all the students – but that wasn’t good enough. The results for young children in schools are bad enough, but consider the implications for police approaching a man lurking in a women’s restroom. Will they be charged with a civil rights violation for asking him why he’s there? Will they not ask, out of fear of being labeled discriminatory?

Several Central Massachusetts lawmakers have signed on to support this bill: Rep. Harold Naughton of Clinton, Rep. James O’Day of Worcester, Rep. Geraldo Alicea of Charlton, Sen. Harriette Chandler of Worcester, Rep. Anne Gobi of Spencer, Rep. Robert Rice of Gardner and Rep. Stephen DiNatale of Fitchburg.

It’s time they heard that their constituents want them to stop the pandering to special interests, and start taking into account the practical results of the laws they pass.

Chanel Prunier is executive director of the Coalition for Marriage and Family and resides in Shrewsbury.

This editorial was printed with the permission of the original author.

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