Pilgrimage to torment children

Want basics about transgender folks?

They’re not about to let it go, although they’re legally, ethically and morally wrong.

It was nauseating to watch three Nevada Assembly members display a stunning level of ignorance in front of the Elko County School Board recently. They were there to advocate against the request of a transgender student and his family to allow him to use the school’s public bathroom that matches his gender identity. Instead, he was directed to the bathroom in the offices of the school counselor or nurse, or in the special education facility designed for students with other needs.

It seems likely everyone at the meeting realized that no 13-year-old boy, trying to fit in, wants to visit the nurse every time nature calls.

The young man’s mother pleaded with the school board to let her son use the public restroom, citing the bullying he endures on a daily basis because he’s different.

Yet, there they were, our political leaders, arguing passionately in favor of discriminating against one Elko boy in particular and transgender people in general. One of the three Assembly members, John Ellison, represents Elko in the state Legislature. The other two, Assemblymembers Ira Hansen from Washoe and Jim Wheeler from Douglas, Lyon and Storey, felt so strongly about school bathrooms, they traveled hundreds of miles to ensure no transgender student be permitted to enter the public bathroom.

Were they not listening at all during the last legislative session as transgender students talked about difficulty fitting in with their peers? Weren’t they shocked to learn of the high rate of attempted suicides among transgender people, a whopping 41 percent, most of whom reported being bullied at school? Did they not understand that some transgender kids are so worried about using the wrong bathroom they refuse to eat or drink anything all day long to avoid being challenged or ridiculed? And did they not comprehend the absurdity of the argument that boys will pretend to be transgender girls to gain entry into the girls bathroom to spy on the opposite sex?

The language used by the assemblymembers reflects the ’separate but equal’ arguments of a past we might have hoped we had outgrown. Insisting they merely wished to protect the modesty of the majority of students, Ellison told the school board, “If you want all the bathrooms, (then) I got a real problem with kids that feel uncomfortable. …We should consider the privacy of all 9,526 students, not just the four transgender ones.”

Hansen promised to reintroduce a failed measure requiring students to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex. He hinted he might even spearhead a ballot initiative to let the voters decide.

It’s worth pausing to consider that all of this angst is over school bathrooms where even the opponents agree the most egregious privacy issue is perhaps a glimpse of another student’s underwear.

Nevertheless, the Elko County School Board voted unanimously to deny the transgender student’s request as a standing-room only crowd of parents watched, apparently terrified of what they don’t understand.

In response, the ACLU promptly sued the school district for violating state and federal laws, citing Nevada’s public accommodation and anti-bullying laws, Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.

Still, there’s hope that an open mind can be educated. Reno and the state have already decided to allow their employee health plans to cover hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery and Sparks is on the brink of making the same choice. And that’s real progress.

These assemblymembers, so determined to keep transgender youth from using the bathroom of their choice, are clearly on the wrong side of history, boldly protecting students from a non-existent danger while disparaging vulnerable children whose courage and determination to live an authentic life should inspire us all.