14 March 2015

Speaking Up For Her Daughter

She denies it now.  Still, I think there had to be times when it couldn't have been easy for my mother to raise me.  Given the circumstances--the ones inside my head as well as those around her--she did a great job, I'd say.

There were times she defended me.  Sometimes I needed it, other times I didn't.  And there were times I deserved it, and times I didn't.  But, even though I wasn't an angel, I'd say that most of the times she stuck up for me, I was the sinned-against rather than the sinner, if you will.  Heck, there was even a time--in eighth grade, I think--when a teacher told me to restrain another kid who was acting up in the cafeteria, knowing full well that kid would start a fight with me if I did.  Even the other kid admitted as much to the principal and the teacher got a reprimand from that principal--and an earful from my mother.

But one thing she never had to do was to defend my right to use a bathroom.  Actually, my using a bathroom in school was usually a non-issue because I didn't use the facilities in school if I could help it.  To me, the boys' bathrooms were the most dangerous place in the school besides the locker room, depending on which gym teacher was on duty.  And, of course, I would not have been allowed to use the girl's bathroom.  Nor would it have occurred to me to ask, given the times.   And, to my knowledge, there weren't any gender-neutral bathrooms in the school, and I don't think I would have been allowed to use the one in the principal's office.

Does any mother--or father--ever think that defending a kid's right to use a bathroom--i.e., the one appropriate to the gender by which the kid identifies--is in his or her job description?  Then again, does any parent have any idea of what he or she is in for if the kids' transgender?

Such are the dilemmas faced by Jennifer Surridge.  Her 11-year-old, who identifies as a girl, attends school in Sodus, a rural town on the shore of Lake Ontario, about halfway between Rochester and Syracuse.  Parents there are upset that her daughter is using bathrooms and locker rooms intended for other girls.  At a school board meeting this week, Ms. Surridge had to explain to those parents that her child's gender identity is not a "choice":  She was born a girl, albeit in a boy's body, and she would be in danger in male facilities.

"Transgender is not a choice," she explained.  "I don't care what anyone in this room says, it is not a choice.  Nobody would choose to live this kind of life."

Spoken like a great mother.  Trust me, I am familiar with the species.

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