By Janet Tassel
Man and woman created He them. Oh yeah? Well, here in Massachusetts that biblical stuff is long gone, trashed for representing patriarchal imperialism, binarism, gender apartheid, cissexism, and other detestable things.
Accordingly, we have recently been sternly reminded that we must get with the program and "cleanse" our schools and ourselves of all "gender distinctions." The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has released a lengthy directive updating the "transgender rights and hate crimes" law that went into effect in July 2012. But last year's law apparently didn't go far enough. According to the intrepid (and much-maligned) pro-family activists at MassResistance, this latest directive is "the most thorough, invasive, and radical transgender initiative ever seen on a statewide level."
So let's take a look at the DESE decree, a bloated and repetitive huff-and-puffer, like all such bureaucratic fiats. (www.doe.mass.edu/) First come the definitions, guidelines to "terminology." Here is one:
Gender expression: the manner in which a person represents or expresses gender to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice, or mannerisms.
Gender nonconforming: a term used to describe people whose gender expression differs from stereotypic expectations. The terms "gender variant" or "gender atypical" are also used.
Gender identity: ...a person's gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth....
Students of "queer theory" will recognize these constructs, which of course originated in that discipline.
Then, the gender identity law is explained, repetitiously, with a suggested model paragraph for school administrators:
The [ ]Public Schools strives [sic] to provide a safe, respectful, and supportive learning environment in which all students can thrive and succeed in its schools. The [ ]Public Schools prohibits [sic] discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation and ensures that all students have equal rights of access and equal enjoyment of the opportunities, advantages, privileges, and courses of study.
It goes on to say that the law was influenced by a survey of transgender students conducted by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network). You may remember GLSEN as the notorious sponsor of "Fistgate," a state-approved "Teach Out" at Tufts University, where students as young as 12 were offered lessons in "fisting" and given "fisting kits" along with other sex toys and paraphernalia. (For a graphic description of fisting, go to www.massresistance.org.)
MassResistance has also uncovered a document from November 2012 published by the Mass. Transgender Political Coalition, from which DESE seems to have appropriated entire sections verbatim. Another major influence on the document is BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth). Thus, when the DESE, introducing the directive, says, "In preparing this guidance, the Department reviewed policies and guidance from several sites, organizations, and athletic associations and consulted with the field (my italics)," one begins to understand which field they are playing on.
But we digress. To understand "gender identity":
Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person's core identity; provided, however, that gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.
This is an example of the stultifying prose emanating from the bowels of the Department of Education, and it also leaves hanging that provocative question: What would the DESE consider an "improper purpose?"
Moving on, "The responsibility for determining a student's gender identity rests with the student or, in the case of young students not yet able to advocate for themselves, with the parent." The footnotes to this section refer us to material which declares the "young student" to be younger than five. So beyond kindergarten at the very least, the parent may be left out of the discussion. Continuing:
One's gender identity is an innate, largely inflexible characteristic of each individual's personality that is generally established by age four [my italics], although the age at which individuals come to understand and express their gender identity may vary based on each person's social and familial social development. As a result, the person best situated to determine a student's gender identity is that student himself or herself.
What? "Himself or herself?" Binarism at the DESE? Indeed, a particularly longwinded section is dedicated to the thorny problem of pronouns. For example,
The issue of the name and pronoun to use in referring to a transgender student is one of the first that schools must resolve to create an environment in which that student feels safe and supported....The best course is to engage the student...with respect to name and pronoun use, and agree on a plan to initiate that name and pronoun use within the school.
This is a very serious matter, but the DESE might consider the gender-free pronoun found in The Official Politically Correct Handbook: h'orsh'it.
Somehow I doubt it. To the DESE, the question of pronouns does not permit the slightest levity or even laxity:
Continued, repeated, and intentional misuse of names and pronouns may erode the educational environment for Jane. It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline.
This obsession with the correct name and pronoun must continue beyond the classroom, in reports, school records, medical and counseling records--all documents concerning the student. Moreover, "the birth name is considered private information and may be disclosed only with authorization under the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations." And further, the student may request that the birth name on his school record be changed. In addition, "Transgender students who transition after having completed high school, may ask their previous schools to amend school records or a diploma or transcript that include the student's birth name and gender."
Then comes the major change from the previous law, the decree that had been dropped because of public outrage. Now, apparently, the DESE senses a change in the air, for:
All students are entitled to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities that are sanitary, safe and adequate, so they can comfortably and fully engage in their school program and activities....Transgender students who are uncomfortable using a sex-segregated restroom should be provided with a safe and adequate alternative, such as a single "unisex" restroom or the nurse's restroom.
And finally (though there are pages and pages more, all larded with glutinous bureauspeak, as can be read on the website) we look at the question of "gender transition." Most "transgender youth will undergo gender transition through a process commonly referred to as 'social transition,' whereby they begin to live and identify as the gender consistent with their gender-related identity." However,
Some transgender youth who are close to reaching puberty, or after commencing puberty, may complement social transition with medical intervention that may included hormone suppressants, cross-gender hormone therapy, and for a small number of young people, a range of gender-confirming surgeries.
Here we must return to the prominent Toronto psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Berger, who has written, "The medical treatment of delusions, psychosis or emotional [un]happiness is not surgery....Cosmetic surgery will not change the chromosomes of a human being in that it will not make a man become a woman, capable of menstruating, ovulating, and having children, nor will it make a woman into a man, capable of generating sperm that can unite with an egg or ovum from a woman and fertilize that egg to produce a human child."
Or again, we turn to Dr. Paul McHugh, distinguished professor of
psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University
School or Medicine and psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital:
We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia; to provide a surgical alteration to the body of these unfortunate people was to collaborate with a mental disorder rather than to treat it.
And further, "I have witnessed a great deal of damage from sex-reassignment":
The children transformed from their male constitution into female roles suffered prolonged distress and misery as they sensed their natural attitudes. Their parents usually lived with guilt over their decisions--second-guessing themselves and somewhat ashamed of the fabrication, both surgical and social, they had imposed on their sons. As for the adults who came to us claiming to have discovered their "true" sexual identity and to have heard about sex-change operations, we psychiatrists have been distracted from studying the causes and natures of their mental misdirections by preparing them for surgery and for a life in the other sex. We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.
Perhaps Dr. McHugh and Dr. Berger are too stodgy, too patriarchal? They seem unaware of the joys of a gender-free society. Writes Martine Rothblatt in her book, "The blending of gender and marking of skin are revolutionary onramps to the transcendence of fleshism....We all have way too much gender to be forced into male or female pigeonholes. It is a multi-gender, multi-sexual society awaiting us in the future. One that is fun and full of creative choices."
The name of her book? Transgender to Transhuman.