De-gendering the School

I was originally going to post on this in more detail, but that was before I’d had time to finish the entire piece. It turns out Rod Dreher doesn’t just think that Arcadia Unified School District shouldn’t have made onerous accommodations for a transgendered student–he (seemingly) thinks that being transgendered is itself an illusion,

From what I can tell, the problem is that this girl demanded that the school treat her as a boy, and that the entire culture and procedures of the school be changed to accommodate that illusion. My view is that the school should have gone the extra mile to ensure that she was not bullied, verbally or physically, but for the Department of Justice to compel a school district to allow girls to share sleeping quarters, bathrooms, and changing rooms with boys, and vice versa, based not on the gender the child actually is, but on the gender they wish to be?

This is the farthest thing from enlightened conservatism I can imagine–not because of where Dreher finds himself on this particular issue, but because of how he’s approached it.

He’s either completely ignorant of what gender means or how gender identity works, or just isn’t even willing to entertain the idea that other people could have any good reasons for thinking the subject is more complex than a simple question of anatomy.

Given the recent discussion in this thread on children and gender roles in public school, it only seemed appropriate to link the two conversations together.

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8 thoughts on “De-gendering the School

  1. Rod Dreher is a very odd duck but I am not sure what an “enlightened conservative” response would be. How do you think it would differ from a left-liberal response on gender and sexuality issues?

    I don’t agree with Rod Dreher on this issue (or almost anything) but he is still a self-proclaimed social conservative. It seems silly to be surprised that he would not understand transgenderism.


    • That may have been a silly adjective on my part–but I was more or less trying to get at my frustration that Dreher doesn’t just disagree with the left/liberal view of social, psychological, and sexual identity, but that he doesn’t even act like there is very strong disagreement on this. I suspect he talks about the gay marriage issue very differently.


    • I think the enlightened conservative response would be not to like it personally but to shrug and have a what can you do about it type attitude and go along. That is not prohibit or punish for it but don’t actively support it or cheerlead or it either.


  2. I’ll agree Dreher doesn’t seem to get gender as anything other then immutable set characteristics with only two binary possibilities. I’ll agree the school district needs to make accommodation to the kid If the kid is seriously determined she be treated as a boy than in general that is how she should be treated. But in terms of sleeping arrangements on a camping trip than i also seriously wonder if that is going a bit to far. A shared room is a shared experience. Putting the kid in a shared room given the context is really risky, not just for bullying but also for really uncomfortable standing out as different. It would be great if the other kids completely accepted her for who she is but that is also fantasy land to assume that will happen in most cases. It is unrealistic to believe most people, and especially middle school kids, will easily adjust to her presence. In that good; no. But i don’t see how it is unrealistic.


    • If the other kids were okay with it, I don’t see a problem. I also don’t see any call to make a literal federal case out of it, though.

      That said, I think things change significantly if you reverse the sexes. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of forcing girls to share a bathroom or sleeping quarters with someone who’s male in any sense of the word, including biological females who self-identify as male. Which is totally sexist, but I never claimed to be a feminist.


      • This child has announced “I am actually a boy, in a girl’s body.” If sleepovers are at issue, the internal mental state of the child is not the concern — the body is. “Putting the kid in a shared room given the context is really risky” for something a good deal worse than teasing, ostracism, and bullying, particularly if teasing, ostracism, and bullying are already in the mix.

        I don’t know what it’s like to be transgendered any more than I know what it’s like to be gay or anything else really unpopular. There’s some of my fellow atheists who like to make hay about how they’re despised and shunned and stay “in the closet” but I don’t think the analogy holds up for very long in all but a few exceptional circumstances. So I can’t say when is the right time for someone who is not fully heteronormative in sexual-gender expression-identity-preference* to come out of the closet, but I can say that doing so is going to exact a social price and that it is probably a good idea for someone, particularly a young person without a lot of flexibility in selecting a day-to-day environment and peer group, to consider what that social price is before stepping up to the counter, as it were, and paying it.

        What this story tells me is that this particular coming out carries a social price of a lot of anxiety about going to the bathroom, which is something that may not be tops on the list of concerns to address but which demands a solution.

        * Good Gods in Asgard Above, people, can’t we come up with a less kludgy way of expressing this soup of sort-of-related concepts?


  3. Whenever Dreher writes about gender, I just roll my eyes because it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, that gender is about more the simply male or female, that it’s not simply a black and white, either or choice, but something multi-layered and, to some extent, socially constructed. This post was no different–it’s just another take-off point for him to sneer at silly liberalism . I suspect these kinds of posts almost write themselves for him.


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