The Background: In 2011 the Massachusetts legislature amended several state statutes to include prohibit discrimination based on "gender identity." Last week the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued guidance for how the law would be implemented in public schools.
According to the guidelines, "A transgender boy, for example, is a youth who was assigned the sex of female at birth but has a clear and persistent identity as male. A transgender girl is a youth who was assigned the sex of male at birth but has a clear and persistent identity as female. Gender nonconforming youth range in the ways in which they identify as male, female, some combination of both, or neither."
Additionally, the statue says, "The responsibility for determining a student's gender identity rests with the student or, in the case of young students not yet able to advocate for themselves, with the parent."
The guidance states that "determining a student's gender identity is simple" and that the student should be treated and regarded by whatever gender they choose. However, the statute does not require "consistent and uniform assertion of gender identity." So a student can assert various identities or switch from one identity assertion to another as long as there is "other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of [the] person's core identity." The school can also not discuss the student's gender with the parents without talking to the student first. Students are therefore allowed to "express" one gender at home and another one at school without the parents being apprised of the situation.
The students are to be referred to by whatever name or pronoun they prefer (for example, a student whose student record identified him as a male named John was referred to as "Jane" and "she."). All school personnel are required to use "the student's chosen name and pronouns appropriate to a student's gender identity, regardless of the student's assigned birth sex."
The students are also allowed to "access the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that corresponds to the student's gender identity." If transgender students are uncomfortable with using a "sex-segregated restroom" then a "a single 'unisex restroom or the nurse's restroom" must be made available to them. However, the concerns of other students are dismissed since "discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student."
Why It Matters: In their rush to embrace LGBQTO political correctness and trying to create gender-neutral schools, the Massachusetts Department of Education is creating an environment ripe for sexual harassment and abuse. Any teen boy can claim, with a wink to his peers and a straight face to his educators, that he has decided to identify as a female and will then have unlimited access to the girls's restroom and locker rooms. As Adam J. MacLeod and Andrew Beckwith note, "While we doubt that teenage boys will take much interest in the provenance of gender personality, it's not a stretch to suppose that they will welcome its implications for co-ed activities." Indeed, anyone who has spent time around adolescent boys can foresee the inevitable abuses that will be occurring because of this policy.
Last week, in an article on pornography, I claimed that rather than sliding down a slope we are merely waiting for the diffusion of an idea to spread from a group of individuals to the larger population. The situation with gender identity is exactly the same. As MacLeod and Beckwith point out,
Massachusetts lawmakers have for many years been eradicating sexual distinctions from the law. This result seems to us the logical consequence of those efforts.
Redefining marriage to eliminate sexual complementarity as an essential characteristic doesn't automatically commit a state to forcing girls to share locker rooms with boys. But there is a logical connection. One of the premises justifying the redefinition of marriage also grounds these new regulations, that is, the view that sexual difference is irrelevant to the practice of marriage.
But if sexual difference is irrelevant to marriage, then how can it be relevant to any practices? Once the state has determined that sexual difference is no longer a legitimate reason to extend special recognition to man-woman monogamy, there is no reason in principle to maintain sexual distinctions in less intimate practices. If one's anatomical reality isn't relevant to one's marriage, it's even less obvious why it should be relevant to one's bathroom choice.
The idea that sexual distinctions are relevant to public life has lost almost all support in the medical and legal communities as well as in academia and many mainline Christian churches. The issue now is not whether other states will adopt Massachusetts laws against gender identity discrimination but when they will be adopted.