Wisconsin lawmakers are trying to push through legislation that would prohibit transgender students from using their preferred gender washroom facilities. In a state that has seen (at least) four transgender youth suicides in the last two years, how could this move to further stigmatize students be taking hold?
The memo that outlines the proposed bill is riddled with language that problematically removes the transgender student from the rest of the pupils, physically and symbolically. Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) and Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) are the masterminds behind LRB-2643/1 which tries to solidify gender binaries in schools and assign washrooms based on the outdated notions of anatomical sex. As they put it, it “reinforces the societal norm.”
The Wisconsin lawmakers are framing this move with a conversation of comfort. In their words, it is “in response to recent incidents around the state… no student of any gender should be made to feel uncomfortable or threatened in the most private places in our schools.” This language completely ignores the transgender child from the conception of student, as their need for safe space free from discrimination is actively removed.
A more troubling and subtle portion of the bill would allow other students or parents to sue the school district if the gender separation isn’t followed. For monetary compensation. How does washroom assignment have anything to do with student and parent pocketbooks?
A student may request to have access to a third washroom if they cannot comply with using their assigned facilities. This may seem like a compromise to the state, but is detrimental in the long run. In practice, this will reinforce the idea that transgender should be separate and segregated from a very young age. As well, youth in transition are already in a more vulnerable state. Asking for special treatment and being visibly “different” in another way would discourage these kids from asking and standing up for what they need.
Transgender youth are at risk for higher rates of suicide and mental-illness, which makes participating in the traditional educational system difficult to begin with. Rather than stigmatizing and creating gender “othering,” we should be finding solutions. Learning should not be a traumatic experience.
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