Beaming smiles and effusive positivity. My guard went up immediately, sensing wolves in sheep’s clothing. My instincts weren’t far off.
The ‘I Resolve Movement‘ was called to my attention this past weekend. This “movement” purports to offer “reasonable, loving, and tolerant solutions” to transgender issues in the schools. It’s a dubious description as I shall go into here, but let’s start first with a video gone viral that was posted by two proponents: Rachel Damiano, Assistant Principal at North Middle School in Grants Pass, Oregon, and Katie Medart, a 7th grade teacher at North Middle.
In this video Damiano and Medart unveiled their new I Resolve Movement. It’s here that their demeanor immediately put me on guard. Viewing through third-party websites is blocked so click the image to watch at YouTube.
At first take I can see how this proposal might seem innocuous enough — “reasonable, loving, and tolerant” — but I noticed one thing right off: There is no evidence or mention of any transgender person or group having been involved in the drafting of these principles. They’re entirely imposed from the outside.
After watching the video I went next to the I Resolve website which lists the principles described by Damiano and Medart. Under the banner “Resolution 2021-01” they write, “Therefore, be it resolved that we urge our local, state and federal leaders to adopt the following principles and policies…” I note again that “we” does not include anyone transgender.
These are the principles and policies outlined in the resolution with my responses in italics.
Premise Point 1
We recognize that, excepting very rare scientifically-demonstrable medical conditions, there are two anatomical gender presentations, male and female;
It’s not clear what Damiano and Medart mean by “very rare scientifically-demonstrable medical conditions” but they might be referring to intersex individuals, sometimes referred to as “hermaphrodites,” who comprise about 1.7% of births.
Clearly the transgender community is not going to concur with this very narrow definition of gender identity. Nor probably will many scientists and medical researchers working in the area of gender identity.While outward “gender presentation,” as they say, is generally male (penis) or female (vagina), the resolution seems to discount if not totally reject any legitimate basis for gender identity beyond external genitalia.
As noted by the TransActive Gender Project at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, “those that oppose affirming those experiencing gender dysphoria continue to cite ideologically subjective opinion pieces and outdated, discredited research” promoting “irresponsible and […] politically motivated disinformation.”
The TransActive Gender Project points out that “Virtually every respected social science and healthcare organization around the world supports early affirmation and treatment of properly assessed transgender children and youth.” These are listed by Lamba Legal Defense.
Resolution 1a Point 2
Shared public-school restrooms and locker rooms, previously designated by “gender” (e.g. “boys” and “girls” designations) could be re-designated as “anatomically-male” or “anatomically-female” spaces to only be used by persons matching the anatomical designation of the spaces as consistent with the purpose for which the spaces are built;
This doesn’t change anything except to more firmly institutionalize the restrictions already experienced by most transgender youth. Calling it a “Boys Room” or “Anatomically-Male Room” is a distinction without a difference.
Resolution 1b Point 3
For any person who is not comfortable using their anatomically-correct space, they may request access to a private restroom or locker room space, including designated staff spaces, to the extent that such spaces exist and are available;
[A Footnote to this point states: “Please note that although not specified in the resolutions, individual gender neutral bathrooms are endorsed by I Resolve and encouraged to be fully funded by the state to be implemented in education facilities.”]
The words “separate but equal” immediately come to mind.
However I could almost accept this as a reasonable accommodation if only there had been transgender input into the resolution. As it stands, it’s one-sided proposal designed to ease the discomfort of non-transgender people. Not along ago I heard a transgender student complaining that an arrangement like this requires careful planning around accessing the allowed restroom, especially if it’s at the far end of the building or across campus.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board reports that students have shared restrooms and lockers rooms based on gender identity for years with little complaint by either students or parents.
Resolution 2 Point 4
A student may, with parent permission, request to be called by a derivative of their legal name but it will not be mandated that students or staff be required to call the student by their preferred name; and
This provision is problematic on multiple levels — not the least of which that it can literally have deadly consequences.
1. Requiring parental consent is a danger to youth.
Data released by the Oregon Judicial Department states that roughly 34% of LGBT youth report suffering physical violence from their parents as a result of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The department reports that 26% of LGBT youth are forced to leave home because of conflicts with family over sexual orientation and/orgender identity.
Requiring any LGBT youth to come out to parents prematurely is cruel and dangerous.
2. In Oregon, as in many states, an underage girl is not required to obtain her parents’ permission to receive contraception or have an abortion. This isn’t true in all states, but also is not unusual. The Guttamacher Institute reports that the “legal ability of minors to consent to a range of sensitive health care services — including sexual and reproductive health care, mental health services and alcohol and drug abuse treatment — has expanded dramatically over the past 30 years.” If all these services can be accessed by minors, especially in Oregon where Damiano and Medart live, requiring parental consent for transgender youth to simply change their names and pronouns seems profoundly unfair.
3. Limiting any chosen name to a derivative of the youth’s legal name is simply petty.
4. It’s difficult to control other students, but to allow school staff, teachers and administrators to refuse to address a transgender student by his or her preferred name is unacceptable. I don’t see disrespect of a youth by an adult in a school setting as protected speech. It can be psychologically harmful to the transgender student and taken by others as a signal that the transgender person is not a full human being entitled to fair treatment and dignity. As such, it can encourage bullying.
Resolution 3 Point 5
A student may, with parent permission, request to be referred to with preferred pronouns, but it will not be mandated that students or staff be required to use the preferred pronouns.
All the comments above regarding a preferred name apply to preferred pronouns as well.
No Mention of Anti-Bullying
In addition to the lack of transgender participation in writing these principles, I also notice there’s no attention paid to the issue of bullying. This is a glaring omission! The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that transgender youth are at higher risk for violent victimization than their cisgender peers. Again this omission simply drives home the one-sided and prejudiced character of the I Resolve Movement.
Transgender Activists Oppose ‘I Resolve’
Damiano and Medart may have the sincerest of intentions — I can’t read their minds — but the principles spelled out on their resolution are ill-advised at best and bigoted at worst. They have the potential to do tremendous harm to transgender youth. The TransActive Gender Project at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling has issued a formal statement opposing I Resolve and a video.
North Middle School Students Rally Against ‘I Resolve’
There’s also opposition at North Middle School in Grants Pass by a group of students who have come forward to protest what Damiano and Medart are proposing. The students are petitioning for Damiano and Medart to be fired, a specific action I don’t support for reasons I’ll explain below, but I am otherwise very happy to see students organizing to defend fellow students and the transgender community. The protests are being led by 8th grader Stephanie Eminowicz who says the I Resolve “resolution does not support students, especially those in the LGBTQ community, a community she identifies as a part of.” The students are receiving support from the Southern Oregon’s Health Equity Coalition.
Damiano and Medart Face Retribution
Rachel Damiano and Katie Medart have been placed on Administrative Leave pending possible termination for speaking out publicly in advocacy of the I Resolve principles. A pre-termination hearing is scheduled for this Thursday, July 15. In turn they’re suing the school district over violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as violations to the Oregon State Constitution.
Despite my strong opposition to the principles they advocate — which I see as a serious attack against the LGBT community — I believe that all sides of political issues have a democratic right to free speech, advocacy and organizing.
Damiano and Medart are requesting supporters to sign a petition in their defense against being punished or fired. While I strongly defend their right to speak out politically as they have, I cannot sign their petition. I interpret it as also putting signers on record as supporting the underlying principles they espouse. With regard to their free speech rights, for instance, I can’t accept their interpretation to include the right of teachers and other adults to verbally disrespect youth in school by refusing to use the students’ preferred names and pronouns.
Since I believe in their rights of free speech, advocacy and organizing, in lieu of signing the petition I directed the tweet shown here to their Twitter account.
In return, it would be nice if Damiano and Medart believed in the rights and dignity of transgender people.
Title image is a screen shot of Damiano and Medart from the I Resolve video.
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