Wednesday, May 18, 2016

As Attention Grows, Transgender Children’s Numbers Are Elusive

The Obama administration’s directive last week instructing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with has set off an intense debate.

Many politicians and parents have raised alarms about privacy and warned of predatory boys sneaking into girls’ bathrooms. But others say that such accommodations are critical protections for a vulnerable population.

For all of the heated debate, a central fact remains elusive: How many students are we talking about?

No one knows for sure. Researchers have not figured out how to obtain consistent, reliable answers from teenagers, much less younger children. 

The best estimates are that the population is small, probably under 1 percent of adolescents. [...]


Transgender Bathroom Debate Turns Personal at a Vermont High School

The way A J Jackson tells it, he kept his head ducked down and pretended to fiddle with his cellphone as he walked into the boys’ bathroom and headed for a stall at Green Mountain Union High School here.

But the way some of his classmates see it, A J was still Autumn Jackson, a girl in boys’ clothing, who had violated an intimate sanctum, while two boys were standing at a urinal, their private parts exposed.

“It’s like me going into a girls’ bathroom wearing a wig,” Tanner Bischofberger, 15, a classmate of A J Jackson’s, who was not one of those in the bathroom, said this week. “It’s just weird.” [...]

And the dispute has driven apart young people who grew up together and were once friends.

Some say the new rule opens the door to sexual predators disguised as someone they are not. Others say it just violates tradition. A society has rules for a reason, and this is one of those rules, that’s just the way it is, they say.

But on a more basic level, students at Green Mountain are complaining that a small vocal minority of gay, lesbian and, as far as they know, one — or maybe two — transgender students among them are trampling on the rights of the majority to decide what the rules of conduct should be. [...]

Mr. Jackson has gradually been making the transition from a vivacious girl with a big smile and long wavy locks to a husky boy with chopped hair dyed several shades of green, snakebite piercings in his lips and gauges embedded in his earlobes. His chest is visibly bound, and because he has not yet started taking male hormones — he plans to do that, and also to have “top surgery,” he says — his face is smooth and still has feminine contours. He once thought he was lesbian, and is still attracted to girls.[...]

Hank Mauti, a school board member and retired sawmill worker from Andover, said he wondered why Mr. Jackson would feel compelled to use a boys’ bathroom when there were six single-use gender-neutral bathrooms in the school.

“What about the little boy that reported it?” asked Mr. Mauti’s wife, Wanda, repeating the rumor, in an interview in their home, under a trophy of a moose that Mr. Mauti shot. “As far as I can tell, his discomfort hasn’t been addressed.” [...]

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