Retired Teacher Confronts Transphobia in Suburban Chicago School

Originally published December 3, 2015

By Roger Fraser
Letter to the Arlington Heights Daily Herald
November 14, 2015

A few evenings ago two lone individuals, one of whom was me, spoke before the District 211 school board on behalf of a transgender student’s right to unrestricted use of the girls’ locker room. There was a large and well organized parent contingent there with signs in support of the board’s decision to restrict this student’s access. The two of us appeared to be the only ones in the room to support the girl’s demand for full inclusion with her peers.
 
This is deeply troubling.

 
It would have been a moving show of support if several of the girl’s classmates had been present, perhaps with signs of their own. (Reportedly, none of them has a problem with the girl’s full use of the locker room; it’s the parents who are freaked by the possible “exposure” of their daughters to the sight of the transgender student’s physical anatomy). It would have even been more moving if one or two had borne witness before the board against the discrimination she is suffering and the implicit attack it makes against her sense of self.
 
But, then, we can hardly expect high school students to take the lead when no teacher in District 211 had the courage that evening to take to the podium and challenge the board’s decision. It would have made a powerful statement if even one faculty member or support staff had spoken on her behalf. It’s hard to imagine that every teacher, coach, social worker, and nurse in 211 stands with the board on this issue. Concerning those who don’t, what are they afraid of? Their jobs are safe. They have strong, effective unions ready and able to defend them in case of retaliation.
 
And, speaking of unions, why wasn’t a teacher union’s spokesperson present to confront the board about the risk it is taking jeopardizing federal funding? Subsidized school lunches for poor kids are at risk as the district flouts the ruling of the Office of Civil Rights. During every contract negotiations, the union vaunts its support for kids. Yet its leadership wasn’t there that evening for the transgender girl, nor did it raise its voice on behalf of the district’s poorest families.  
 
November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance when lives lost to anti-transgender violence are honored. Of course, not all violence against transgender people is lethal or even physical. But silence in the face of any of it is moral cowardice; it’s also a form of complicity.
 
Roger Fraser
Rolling Meadows

 

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