They talked about their struggles trying to fit in at local public schools.
Frederick, Md (KM). More than an hour of testimony was presented Wednesday night to the Frederick County Board of Education on making schools safer and more welcoming for everyone, especially transgender students.
The transgender students told Board members that they are often taunted, harassed, humiliated and bullied by their fellow students. James Van Keulingburg, whose a transgender boy, described the dilemma he faces when using the school restroom. “If I have use the bathroom, I have to deliberate,” he says. “Am I in the right frame of mind to potentially respond to someone in the bathroom? Or would I freeze in time, unsure of what to say? Will I get beaten up? And if so, how badly? I can’t afford to risk it. By the end of the day, I’m too tired to defend my identity in the bathroom. I usually skip it until I get home,” he said.
Another transgender student, Jaime Dam, is a junior at Middletown High School. “Often in the halls of my high school, I’m forced to hear the words such as ‘faggot,’ ‘dyke,’ ‘fag,’ ‘trannie’ and other words that dehumanize and demoralize me, repeated every day, over and over again,” he said. “While most of these words are not directed directly at me, they still cause hurt and discomfort.”
The Board also heard from a citizen who said he supports making schools safer for all students, but students should use the restrooms which correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. “My daughter, all of our daughters, deserve a locker room, a changing room, that is free of boys. All of our daughters deserve to participate on sports teams not against boys,” he said.
The School Board started the process Wednesday night of drafting a policy dealing with gender issues, and making schools safer and more welcoming to all students. A policy committee will write out the policy and present to the Board of Ed for discussion. Panel members say it may take several drafts before it’s completed. During that time, the public will have every opportunity to comment on the policy.
Missy Dirks, the President of the Frederick County Teachers Association, says part of this policy should include training for teachers in how to deal with transgender students. “Every educator needs to understand the importance of correct pronouns and name usage, and how to best support and affirm their students,” she says. “They should feel comfortable addressing these issues in the classroom, without fear of discipline and to know they will be backed up with clear guidance from FCPS,” says Dirks.
The mother of a transgender girl, Jessica Early, said being transgender is not a choice for these young people. “If it was, who would chose to be humiliated, to be taunted, to have to worry about what bathroom they were going in, and not be able to have a normal experience,” she said. “It’s not a choice.”
The Board of Education meeting room was packed with people, some holding signs and wearing shirts supporting transgender students.
By Kevin McManus