The issue comes down to this: there’s a big difference between uncomfortable and unsafe
By Cathy Kristofferson, March 13, 2013.
Last night at the Medford City Council meeting we witnessed round three of the organized attempt to derail the MA Dept. of Ed’s Gender Identity Policy guidelines at the hands of one city councilor and his paid lobbyists! Over 40 of us showed up to heed the call for support for the guidelines, while our opponents had 2.
A couple of meetings ago, Councilor Penta (following a call from a concerned ‘friend’) proposed the following resolution to the Medford City Council to stop the city and it’s School Board from following the recently released school guidelines:
Be It Resolved that the sudden over the vacation implementation of the Massachusetts Stealth Bathroom Bill by the state’s Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester for public schools be discussed in the interest of public safety, privacy and modesty that each child deserves when using a public school bathroom, locker room or changing facility.
Councilor Penta tried to claim he wasn’t against the guidelines, just wanting them not to be implemented before being discussed, but one doesn’t have to think too hard what was really on his mind when he labeled the school guidance a “Massachusetts Stealth Bathroom Bill” in his resolution! His stand, as he explained again last night, is that the Trans Civil Right Bill that was signed into law last summer did not contain public accommodation protections so the school guidelines should not contain restroom and locker room policy.
And once again, everything devolves down to a bathroom issue. He claims that boys will pretend one day to be girls on dares from teammates to gain access to the girls’ locker room despite the guidance clearly stating “consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity, or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity.”
And in fact despite public accommodations being stripped from the bill that passed, education was covered, and the inability to use a restroom or locker room safely is an impediment to the learning experience and thus covered.
Representative Carl Sciortino (D-Medford), who is the author of the passed Trans Civil Right Bill, as well as the author of a recently filed bill to add back the public accommodation protections, rose to answer the council’s questions. He assured them that trans students’ issues are handled on a case by case basis. He assured them that the guidelines were just that, guidelines, not rigid regulations and that Medford could implement their school policy as they saw fit as long as their policy was in conformance with the law. I must say, he slayed Councilor Penta, most notably when Penta repeated the ‘day to day decision’ meme again.
Penta: “If she wants to be a he or she on a particular day”
Sciortino corrected Penta “it’s never on a particular day.”
Quite a few Medford citizens rose to speak in support of the published guidelines, only one Medford citizen, a lesbian veteran, spoke out against the ‘bathroom issues’ having not yet apparently recovered from the co-ed bathrooms of her time in the service.
Amongst the citizens was an absolutely amazing dad, a 20 year Medford resident of a transitioning youth who spoke passionately – often staring down Councilor Penta – while I was silently thanking the heavens for placing that child in his home. This dad also commented at the disbelief he had experienced sitting listening to Rep. Sciortino once he realized that without public accommodation protections – which had been stripped from the bill by the very lobbyists fighting this school policy – that every single trans person sitting in that public City Council Room could have been refused entry or could now (having self-identified thus outing themselves) be tossed out of the public building. More things for this dad to worry about for his child no doubt, and more reason for us activists sitting there and those reading now to get out and support the second bill!
The Executive VP of the Massachusetts Family Institute, Andrew Beckwith, spoke against the guidelines saying they “purported to be regulations” and were “a zero sum game of privacy rights”. The only thing new and interesting he had to say beyond the tired ‘it’s a day to day decision’, ‘excluding parents is wrong’, ‘overstepping bounds’, was that he was the friend who called to alert Councilor Penta of the DoE issuance.
Patricia Doherty who rose to speak in opposition, waited until everyone was done so she could get the last word in, and then introduced herself as ‘a paid lobbyist’. She proceeded to, less than sincerely, express her well wishes saying she ‘can’t imagine have a gender disorder’.
Once I Googled “Patricia Doherty Bathroom Bill” it all became clear: “Catholic Citizenship welcomes new Director – Former Medford City Councilor Patricia Doherty, an attorney, has stepped in to replace the outgoing executive director“. And then I clicked the latest tweet on their blog page and it went to the Massachusetts Family Institute’s site! Ah, the circle is complete… The very same people who worked so hard to remove the public accommodation protections from the Trans Civil Rights Bill with their vile and disgusting “Bathroom Bill” lies are the same people behind this attack on protections for transgender students in Medford schools! No doubt they are the same folks whipping up the legislators opposing the guidance too. Along with the usual suspects…
In the end no vote was necessary as Sciortino rose to answer the final questions, and two high school students rose to give their support for allowing the School Committee to move forward to follow the guidelines and defining their own policy. They felt the students would teach each other and then the community. More hope for the younger generation.
Thanks to GetEQUAL MA, Mass Trans Political Coalition and MassEquality for showing up with supporters.
- SCHOOL POLICY FOR GENDER IDENTITY DRAWS LEGISLATIVE BULLIES (O-blog-dee-o-blog-da)
- Live blogging (Information Central Medford)