Bathroom policy arguments carry familiar tune

Last week, the nation’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, rescinded guidelines issued last year by the Obama administration requiring that schools allow transgender students to use restrooms matching their chosen gender rather than their birth gender. The secretary of education and present administration feel that this policy is better left to state and local control, and that it was an “overreach” on the part of the federal government. I could not disagree more.

As an educator, I have had many opportunities to study and learn with my students. Often we notice similarities that occur between events and people, and one cannot help drawing parallels between them.

For example, events leading up to America’s Civil War included the tune of states’ rights being sung by Southern politicians to drown out a growing chorus of voices demanding an end to slavery. This same song had choruses added during the civil rights era of the 1960s and, apparently, is still being sung today in regards to the LBGTQ community.

In addition, an associated tune of fear of others is often heard. One of the justifications that I have read from those who oppose self-identification of gender is that they fear some will take advantage of the situation so they can enter a bathroom or locker room and harass the occupants. Repealing a guideline will not make this scenario go away and has no basis in truth. Rescinding the guidelines only makes it easier to discriminate against a minority by subjecting them to additional barriers and ridicule.

Finally, I believe that repeal of these guidelines will be seen as license for others to continue their violence and discrimination against the LBGTQ community. This is a community that already suffers too frequently from the ignorance and fear of others. There is a need for all of us to work together to overcome petty fears, drive out hate and seek understanding. We need to change the tune.

As always, State College Friends School, and all Friends schools, are committed to the Quaker testimonies of equality, peace and integrity. Quaker schools strive to create inclusive, supportive and respectful communities for all students, including each schools’ transgender and gender expansive/non-binary students. We welcome people of all faiths, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identification.

You have many friends in the community.

Dan Hendey is the head of school at State College Friends School. He can be reached at 237-8386 or scfs@scfriends.org.