In the modern day, the idea of progress seems to have lost its meaning. No longer do people associate progress with the betterment of society as a whole, or something done for the common good. Rather, it is now mistaken for when small groups of minorities receive treatment and privileges at the expense of the vast public.
Such is the case with Pascack Valley’s newly passed transgender policy. In an attempt to make transgender students more comfortable by permitting them to use the bathrooms and locker rooms opposite of their biological sex, the administration is ignoring the large majority, the rest of the student body.
In essence, the Board of Education is saying it is fine for the rest of the students to feel uncomfortable, as long as these select few are satisfied. Anyone can see that this is of stark contrast to their self-proclaimed goal of providing a “safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment for all students”, as stated on the first line of this new policy. It seems like the administration has confused the word “all” with a small group of no more than 6-8 students.
It is true that there are many at PV who will accept transgender students in their bathrooms, or will simply not care. However, it is presumptuous and flawed to assume this is the opinion of the student body as a whole. Just take a look at The Smoke Signal’s most recent poll, in which almost half of the people polled said they are not happy that the policy was passed.
Thus, it is without a doubt that many students throughout Pascack Valley quietly share these concerns about using bathrooms and locker rooms with transgender people. Unfortunately, most of these aforementioned students will be encouraged to keep their thoughts to themselves, in fear of being labeled something along the lines of an intolerant bigot who needs to “get with the times.” It is a shame that most will jump to these conclusions without first considering the completely legitimate opinions of these people.
And what legitimate opinions they are. Contrary to what you might have heard, feeling uncomfortable changing with someone who is transgender does not make you satanic; it’s a perfectly normal reaction. The same principles apply to this situation as changing with a member of the opposite sex. It is simply human nature for some to be uncomfortable about using facilities with someone who is not of the same sex as themselves, and that is not something that should be looked down upon.
There is good reason why bathrooms and locker rooms are separated by sex in the first place. It is understood that men and women use these facilities in different ways, and it is almost unheard of to suggest completely unseparated bathrooms. Therefore, it is only logical to think that if a person does not have the corresponding parts of the gender of a facility, they do not belong in that facility. It is common sense, not sexism, discrimination, or injustice, to believe that biological sex should trump psychological gender in these cases.
Whether you agree with this assessment or not, there are undeniably people that feel this way, both in the Pascack Valley community and in the country as a whole. In PV’s case, the comfortability and opinions of these students should be in no way valued any less than the transgender students themselves.
On the other hand, it is worth noting that PV’s new policy deals with much more than just the use of opposite bathrooms and locker rooms. The policy outlines that transgender students shall be referred to by their chosen name and pronouns by the faculty, all unofficial school records will be changed to such name and pronoun, and transgender students can play sports of whatever gender they identify as, among other smaller actions. These policies are sensible, as there is no real harm in making these efforts, and it doesn’t affect anybody but the students who are transgender themselves.
There is also one specific part of Pascack Valley’s written policy that is commendable. The district seems strict when it comes to determining if one is qualified for the guidelines laid out by the new protocol or not. According to the policy itself, the administration will only approve of a student’s request “when there is consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity.” This directly addresses a problem that many would have with the policy otherwise, preventing a student from claiming they are transgender when they really don’t feel that way, in order to receive the benefits of the policy without actually being transgender.
Maybe this doesn’t matter in the long run. Maybe no one will take advantage of the policy. Maybe people who are transgender continue to use the “gender neutral” single bathrooms near the back of the auditorium, a completely reasonable alternate solution. Maybe there will be no problems in the future regarding this matter, and we will not hear of it again. All of this is unknown. What is known, however, is that the administration, in charge of doing what is best for the school and students as a whole, made a controversial decision with only a few in mind.