In case you missed it, there’s a recent story being covered by multiple outlets regarding a 9th grader in Pennsylvania who addressed her school board regarding the district’s policy of allowing young men and women to use the locker room facilities of the gender they identify with. Attempting to use several angles to justify her case, from religion to comfort level to her own feelings of being discriminated against, Sigourney Coyle seemed to place her own identification of another person over their own identification of themselves. “I am a woman, and I identify as a woman, and you can’t make me change in front of someone who I don’t identify with, who is physically male.” So in essence, she feels she needs to approve of the gender identity of those around her, and agree with how everyone else has identified themselves, before she’ll be willing to change her clothes near them (in a locker room that has private stalls for those who want to use them, mind you).
Anyway, before I lose my mind over this, I wanted to share something with you. I was approached by a friend of mine who has an 11 year old transgender daughter. She was looking for an avenue to share her thoughts with Sigourney Coyle’s mother, Aryn Coyle, who has been equally, if not more, vocal about this issue. Rather than post on Aryn’s Facebook page and get blocked, bullied, threatened, or worse (and avoid backlash aimed at her child), she asked me to publish this anonymously for her. I think it’s an important read and I urge my readers to please share it so it finds its way to its intended audience.
I am a wannabe watercolor painter, budding photographer, occasional writer, and public school teacher. I am the wife of a two-time war veteran who has served 16 years so far for our US Military. And I am a proud atheist and mother to three children, the oldest of whom is about to transition from male to female, which means my son of eleven years is about to become my transgender daughter. And I love, respect, and support my child.
I need not go further in introductions, for based on your public posts on Facebook, I see we have little in common when it comes to our views. I will however say that I am appalled by your position on the transgender issue that concerns today’s youth. And I ask you, do you feel that your daughter is any more at-risk in the locker room around a transgender student than she would be around a lesbian student? How about a pansexual student? Where does one draw the line? As a public school teacher — and a parent of a transgender daughter — I can honestly say the only problem with either of these aforementioned situations is outdated views like your own that are passed down as unfortunate ethnotheories from parent to child, generation after generation. Professionally and personally, I push for early education and awareness being taught to public school students at the elementary level, such as classroom lessons on diversity, proper terminology of sexual organs, and information about gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. I applaud libraries that carry books made for children that introduce gender as a wide spectrum and normalize lesbian and gay family structures — children’s books like Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, The Royal Heart, and I Am Jazz. And when my two younger children grow up, I have no problem telling them that some boys have vaginas and some girls have penises, and that some families contain two daddies or two mommies. I’ve a friend who I suspect grew up in a household where the mother was committed to both a man and another woman who all lived together in a polyamorous relationship—and that’s okay with me, if that was indeed the case. Henry David Thoreau said in Walden, “…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours…” I simply interpret that as, “be as you may.”
I know that this letter will likely anger you, but that is not my objective here. I just thought it necessary to let you know that your actions are not applauded by all. Like Kim Davis, your beliefs are your business, but when your actions, like hers, insult a community of people (and serve as a reminder that the civil rights movement unfortunately still has far to go), now that warrants criticism in my book. On August 21 at 8:59am you posted on Facebook about your daughter, saying that having gym class over summer “…protects her from possible exposure to a biologically male student in the locker room.” You owe this poor transgender student who your daughter goes to school with an apology for publicly speaking of her with such ignorance! Biologically male?! The truth is that it’s ignorant stances like yours that contribute to the reasons why too many children and adults remain unaccepting, and the suicide rate within the transgender community is at 41 percent. And your news story (or your daughter’s rather) has left me wondering: how is it that my good Christian neighbor just three doors down who has accepted God into her heart and life, and whose child rides the bus with and is in the same grade as mine, is understanding and accepting of my child’s being transgender, but you speak as a Christian while openly siding with the opposition? I possess an in-depth knowledge of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other religions. However, I do not subscribe to notions of sin, forgiveness, and prayer. I also do not favor a belief system that all too many times breeds discrimination and hate. As an atheist, I, more often than not, respect others’ beliefs and choices, and I expect there to be a two-way street with no roadblock. The problem many religious folks have with transgender students using the locker rooms and bathrooms of their gender identity is just another reason why I strongly favor our nation becoming more secular. Secularism breeds acceptance of those who may be different from you. Religion places rules on everyone and everything.
I am thankful that my child and I reside in a progressive state where transgender students have access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity and public school teachers are encouraged by state education policy to honor and respect whatever name, gender, and pronouns that transgender students choose identify as. My state’s Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Guidance Document should be a beacon of light for other states, like Texas wherein a kindergarten girl has recently been denied access to the girls’ bathroom due to her being transgender. I have had an outpouring of support for my daughter, with two close friends taking her shopping for back-to-school clothes — girls’ clothes — for the first time ever. I’ve got neighbors in my community dropping off hand-me-downs for her. Yesterday when I texted her two friends’ mothers to let them know, I received positive messages of support back. And when I let the middle school principal know, I was reassured everything would be okay and that my child and I would indeed be supported. My child is neither mutant nor monster and deserves to be respected whether she wishes to use the girls’ locker room or not. “I am a woman, and I identify as a woman, and you can’t make me change in front of someone who I don’t identify with…” said your daughter. Well, this would be my child’s sentiments exactly if someone were to tell her that she must change in the boys’ locker room. What your daughter identifies someone else’s gender to be is immaterial. Your daughter identifies as a woman so she should use the women’s locker room. Mine does as well, so she should too. If your daughter doesn’t want to see a trans female with her clothes off, then she should keep her wandering eyes to herself and face her own locker while she changes. Her ignorance is her problem, not everyone else’s. Asking transgender students to use bathrooms or locker rooms with students who don’t identity as the same gender as them is just ludicrous. My heart goes out to the teachers in Pearland, Texas who have to stand by and watch ignorance prevail as little boys and that one little girl may end up sharing the same bathroom.
So, Aryn, you can sit there and think that your actions resemble that of some kind of hero and that your daughter is one to be admired because she “stood up for student rights” as you boasted yesterday on your Facebook page, but you are mistaken. It is I who goes forth acting with ethics in-mind and supporting justice for all regardless of sexual orientation and sexual identity. This society is changing, and although you reside in a state that was dubbed a “Holy Experiment” where religious freedom was forever intended, the times are changing and, fortunately, secular values are growing and science-based knowledge is gaining momentum. An acquaintance of mine helped launch a Young Skeptics club for students in a small public school district in Western New York. More high schools have LGBTQ peer support groups nowadays and students are seeing courses on gender, such as in California and New York — courses like LGBTQ Studies and Gender Studies. Informative, modern, research and evidence-based books, such as Dr. Diane Ehrensaft’s Gender Born Gender Made, are being read and deeply reflected upon resulting in less close-minded, bigoted judgments being aired and shared. Judgments that happen to be a good reminder for me that being transgender isn’t my daughter’s problem, but a problem for people like you. Contrary to what your daughter told the East Penn School Board this past Monday night, the only “bodily privacy” rights that are violated are transgender students’ privacy rights when something as private as whether or not one’s genitalia corresponds with his/her/their gender identity. Students shouldn’t be expected to announce to the entire student body that they are transgender. I believe that one day, whether or not a person is transgender won’t matter as much. And that is how privacy should be respected, as a result of acceptance rather than a product of fear.
If I had the chance to stand up in front of my transgender daughter’s sixth grade class and speak to her peers, I would assure them that they have nothing to fear. She is a friendly, creative girl who likes to play soccer, read fantasy books, and fill notebooks with story after story. Not that her sexual orientation matters, but like many other girls, she is fond of boys — not outright (middle school students are often in denial of “crushes”) — so if she were to be in a locker room with a group of other girls, she’d probably be engaging in “girl talk” like any other.
My daughter is different from yours in many ways, but being a girl is not one of them.
Proud Mother of a Transgender Daughter