Last year Illinois School District 211 fought a hard legal battle to try and maintain discrimination against a transgender student (only ever identified as ‘Student A’) who wished to have access to facilities that matched their gender identity. The District failed in its legal battle and was ordered to comply with the Department of Education and allow the student access to those facilities.
Now, a group of 51 families have filed a federal Lawsuit to challenge the decision based on a claim that allowing Student A access to locker rooms is harming their children’s rights by infringing on their privacy.
The families, who wish to remain unidentified, are calling themselves ‘Students and Parents for Privacy’ are being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (a conservative Christian non-profit organisation) and The Thomas More Society (a conservative pro-life law firm).
Published on May 5, 2016, by the Alliance Defending Freedom this highly disturbing video gives us an idea of what we may encounter elsewhere in the fight against discrimination.
The lawsuit is making multiple claims that the female students at the school are suffering by having a transgender student amongst them. The parents are saying that knowing a transgender student may be present in restrooms and changing facilities has been causing students to feel anxiety, fear, fright, apprehension, humiliation, intimidation, degradation, stress, embarrassment, discomfort and loss of dignity.
The fact that the parents are using a ‘Christian’ standpoint to justify their stance of hatred is both laughable and disturbing. The concept seems to go against one of the most basic tenets of Christian faith, ‘love thy neighbour’, and is using religion as a weapon to legitimize violence and hate. It is also worth considering how people like these ‘Students and Parents for Privacy’ would feel if another group tried to change laws in America based on Muslim, Jewish or even Buddhist teachings. I doubt very much that they would believe that to be acceptable.
It’s also shocking that they seem to be trying to blatantly use the very same kind of language that members of the transgender community would use when describing their experiences in using public facilities. Even though I haven’t had a negative experience in a bathroom for a very long time now, each and every time I use a bathroom outside of my own home I experience fear, apprehension and anxiety at the thought that ‘perhaps this will be the time something bad happens’. Those feelings would be pushed to the extreme if I were to be forced to use the male facilities as I would become even more of a target.
It’s insulting that the people who are opposing the transgender community and inclusion of trans people are painting themselves as the victims, that they seem to understand the levels of trauma that trans people go through in these scenarios enough to be able to try and apply those words to themselves, yet fail to grasp at the level of harm they will be putting this young woman through by their actions.
It’s clear to anyone with a degree of intelligence that this lawsuit is based not out of fear for the safety of students, but of the hate of transgender people. This is further backed up when looking at the very first page of the suit, where these ‘upstanding Christian’ citizens and ‘concerned parents’ refuse to even acknowledge or respect the gender identity Student A.
The lawsuit identifies Student A as a ‘biologically male student who perceives himself to be female’. Male pronouns and the phrase ‘biologically male’ are used throughout the document, and the idea that a transgender person’s core gender identity is their self-perception is used as an argument to deny Student A their rights.
Any doubt as to the bias of the ‘Students and Parents for Privacy’ were removed when Jocelyn Ford, a lawyer from the Thomas More Society, spoke at a press conference to announce the suit. He explained, ‘We sympathise with children who have difficult personal issues to work through, but a young man shouldn’t be permitted to deal with those issues in intimate settings with 14-year-old girls’.
He also went on to demand that the government should stop it’s ‘bullying tactics’, claiming that it is conducting a ‘dangerous social experiment’ by allowing transgender people the same rights as cisgender people, going so far as saying that they are pushing an ‘extreme political agenda’ in schools. As opposed to this group’s extreme religious agenda, but then I forget that those kind of agendas are okay if they’re ‘Christian’ ones.
Originally Student A was denied access to female facilities by District 211, who were forcing her to use the private bathroom in the school nurse’s office and changing in segregated spaces. Now the group who are trying to get her access to female spaces are claiming that it would be unfair to ask female students who are uncomfortable with a trans student to go through these same alternatives.
They are claiming that students cannot use the bathroom facilities in the nurse’s office because they would not be given enough time to get to their next class. This is the same scenario that these parents feel would be more than accommodating for Student A if she did not feel comfortable using male facilities, but is now apparently unfair for their own children, clearly showing that they never considered these same issues when Student A was concerned.
The parents and students have even gone so far as to claim that alternative accommodations for female students is unfair because any student who has pursued these alternative has been labeled as a bigot and a transphobe by their peers.
The suit is claiming that the comfort of cisgender students takes priority over the inclusion of Student A and her comfort and would rather she be victimised for being transgender and forced to be treated differently by the school than those people who thrive on exclusion and bigotry being challenged for their backwards and hateful views.
Things become even more distressing when the suit claims that the inclusion of Student A constitutes as sexual harassment against the other female students. ‘Allowing people to use restrooms and locker rooms that are designated for the opposite biological sex violates privacy and creates a sexually harassing hostile environment. Exposure to opposite-sex nudity creates a sexually harassing hostile environment. It is the significant and real differences between the biological sexes that creates the hostile environment, which is harassment’.
The suit claims that this apparent harassment is ‘ongoing and continuous’ for students every time they use the female facilities. They are trying to make the claim that the very possibility that a transgender student could walk into a bathroom or changing room, and has the right to do so, is sexual harassment towards cisgender students. The lawsuit is essentially trying to make the claim that the very existence of a transgender student in the school is creating an environment that threatens others.
A number of the families presenting the suit, and the organisations that are supporting them, make it clear that they are approaching the situation from a religious point of view, stating that they are devout ‘Christians’ whose faith is the reason that they are opposed to equality for Student A.
The admission that they feel that these equality rules are wrong based on religious beliefs, the fact that they are refusing any kind of accommodation other than the exclusion of Student A, that they are offering no alternatives for Student A and that they are equating her existence to being a sex offence all make it clear that these people have no reasoned argument and are acting out of hate and bigotry.
These people have no place to demand that their religious beliefs should trump the laws of the land, they are no better than religious extremist terrorists demanding that regimes change to fit their views on the world and they have no right to call themselves Christians.
I have referred to these people as ‘Christians’ instead of Christians as I believe that anyone who chooses to use their religion to deny the rights of others, or claim that they have more right to exist than others are not Christian people. They are people who use faith as a shield to hide behind hatred and bigotry.
These ‘Students and Parents for Privacy’ are just the latest in a long line of extreme hate groups who put their ignorance and bigotry above other people’s rights to exist and live their lives without fear of condemnation and threat.