Protecting Trans Youth in Illinois

Originally posted April 3, 2017

Letter to the Arlington Heights Daily Herald

One slate of candidates in the District 211 school board election insists that the “comfort” and right to privacy of all “normal” children (i.e., the ones who conform to traditional gender roles) should trump any alleged right a Transgender student has to be free from discrimination. Better that Transgender kids dress and undress in lonely isolation, far from their peers, where they won’t be a “threat” or a “danger.”

 If this is not adult-sanctioned bullying, then it’s a very close first cousin, a result of bigotry and ignorance. Furthermore, a policy of exclusion puts a target on a child’s back and is an open invitation to bullies.

I taught 28 years in the elementary feeder district to District 211, worked on the playground, and knew bullying first-hand. Kids get ambushed; it can be quick and sudden, sharp as a knife, vicious and soul-destroying.

A clutch of girls, say, turns their backs on cue when an unpopular girl walks by, or a boy, perceived to be weak and “gay,” is excluded from a game and exposed to snickers and sneers when he walks away. It’s very hard to combat. Teachers don’t see it, kids lie, and their parents refuse to face the truth. (“You’re picking on my child!”)

Bullies normally target a single victim. But in a fundamental sense every child in a school becomes a victim because every child (and bullies most of all) are prey to imagining what it’s like to be singled out and stigmatized. Kids are profoundly peer-conscious, narcissistic, and vulnerable; deep down, they feel unique in their strangeness, full of self-doubt, easily shamed and humiliated.

It’s very sad: Witnessing acts of bullying, adult-sanctioned or otherwise, makes every student marginally less willing to stand out, to be different, take risks, or express unpopular opinions. “What will others think?” Everyone pays a price. It diminishes every child. No one flourishes.

Please vote for candidates Robert LeFevre, Anna Klimkowicz, and Edward Young for District 211 school board April 4th. They’re unembarrassed to stand up for Transgender students, and in doing so they’re standing up for all district children.

Roger Fraser
Rolling Meadows, IL

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