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Posts tagged Douglas County

The Genital Correctness Busybody Blowhard Brigade

(Story via Holly @ feministe 2008-02-17. Video thanks to GLAAD 2008-02-13.)

There are a couple of different points to make about conservative reactions to the recent story of a government elementary school in Douglas County, Colorado making some accommodations for a transgender girl in the second grade. Both are well illustrated by the ridiculous discussion of the story by professional blowhard Neil Cavuto on Fox News.

The first point to make is about the first-order issue — how to run an elementary school and what to do if a kid who has been living and attending school as a boy decides that she wants to live as a girl instead. As far as this goes, Cavuto’s reaction is based on a tissue of nastiness, nonsense, and a few plain lies. As far as I can tell, for example, the claim that any student other than this little girl will be using unisex bathrooms is simply false — the school will have its normal girls’ and boys’ bathrooms; the girl in question just won’t be forced to use them. The claim that it will cost millions of dollars also seems to be something that Cavuto just made up out of thin air; the school already has plenty of bathrooms, doesn’t need to build more, and is just reclassifying a couple of already-existing bathrooms — which from the sound of it are probably single-stall rooms in the teacher’s lounge, or something similar — for this girl’s use. More broadly, the entire discussion is premised on the positively bizarre notion that the school should be ragged on for bending over backwards to suit this girl’s delicate sensibilities, just so long as they don’t follow the Genital Correctness Busybody Blowhard Brigade in deliberately trying to make the kid’s life more unpleasant, e.g. by refusing to call her by her chosen name, or by forcing her to use the boys’ bathroom when she doesn’t want to use it, or by refusing to intervene against bullies as they would with any other child being bullied for any other reason, or by harassing her, punishing her, or throwing her out of school for wearing the wrong set of clothes. Apparently it’s the acme of liberal hypersensitivity and authoritarian political correctness run amok, and indeed it’s robbing children everywhere of their childhood (!), if you should ever fail to go out of your way to be as obnoxious as possible toward an eight-year-old kid, who never did anything to you, all in the name of heteropatriarchal gender-role social engineering.

The second point to make is about a second-order issue — whether or not the local government in Douglas should be taking a role in promoting one way of running a school or interacting with transgender students over others. Cavuto tries to invoke the issue implicitly by repeatedly referring to tax dollars, and although his specific claims about millions of tax dollars are obvious bullshit, there is a legitimate point buried under it. It should not be the local government’s business to promote either a tolerant or a punitive school environment for this kid — because while I think it’s stupid for any school to harass this kid or try to force her into the right gender identity, I also think that it is tyrannical for any government to force local taxpayers to pay for projects that they personally find abhorrent (whether because they are being forced to pay for violations of their own religious beliefs, or for any other reason). Nor should local parents be forced to enroll their kids in a school that allows openly transgender students to participate in classes. Again, I think that’s a stupid policy to make, but is tyrannical for the government to force parents to put their children in environments that they deeply believe that their children shouldn’t be in.

If we had an argument to the effect that local taxpayers should be able to withhold funding from schools that establish policies they consider wrongheaded, or to the effect that anti-trans local parents should be free to withdraw their kids from this school and make other arrangements (homeschooling, parochial schooling, or whatever), without having to jump the government’s normal punitive bureaucratic hurdles, and without being forced to continue paying for a school that they no longer feel to be fit to educate children, then I would be perfectly willing to take their side on that one — I may disagree with everything that they want to teach kids, but I’ll defend to the death their right to teach it. But, of course, principled small-government conservatives that they are, Cavuto and the rest of the GCBBB are constitutionally incapable of making that kind of second-order argument. Instead, we find a lot of phony-concern hand-wringing from letter writers about local government and school authorities promoting gender confusion, deviance, professional help, a lifetime of pain, etc. (As far as I can tell there’s no evidence that the girl is at all confused; she seems to be pretty clear on what she wants. And there’s no reason to believe that her decision to live as a girl promises a lifetime of pain, unless and except to the extent that other people, i.e. these same busybody blowhards, go out of their way to make it painful. There’s no promise here; only a threat.) But it is no more the job of government authorities to promote conformity to traditional gender roles and their assignment based on biological sex, than it is their job to promote the opposite; it would be just as immoral as them to force me to pay for harassing and penalizing transgender children who would otherwise be happy as clams until they fit back into their proper gender, when I consider that abhorrent. Cavuto, meanwhile, shows his principled conservative bona fides by arguing that no matter how many transgender kids there may be in elementary schools, they are far from the majority. We live in a country where majority rules, which apparently, to his mind, means that when 99% of kids follow traditional gender norms for the sex they were assigned at birth, it must be the government’s job to direct school authorities to treat the remaining 1% like shit, so as to spare the 99% from the terrible confusion of possibly learning something. The majority rules, the minority drools, and if you don’t like it they’ll force you to pay for their Right-wing social engineering anyway. And, oh yes, you will pay.

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