The Denver Post reports today that Kathy Svenson, a school board member in Delta, Colorado, is “brushing off criticism of her graphic public statements advocating castration for transgender” youth and has continued “to push for schools to ignore the legal rights of transgender students.” Svenson made national news recently when she said transgender students should not be able to access sex-segregated facilities that correspond to their gender identity unless the students’ “plumbing” is changed.
Fortunately, other officials in the district don’t share her views. Kurt Clay, the assistant superintendent of Delta schools, stated in response to Svenson’s nasty rant that the district does not discriminate: “We welcome all students into our schools,” Clay said.
It’s difficult to make sense of Svenson’s position. Based on her comments in a video posted on the Denver Post’s website, as well as comments she made last month to a blogger for TransAdvocate, Svenson appears to worry primarily about sexual activity and rape. More specifically, she seems to fear that if transgender girls haven’t undergone a complete physical transition, they might rape and impregnate other female students in school restrooms. As Svenson put it in her correspondence with Cris from TransAdvocate, if the child is “capable of producing seed,” the child does not belong in the girl’s restroom. (The full Transadvocate post on Svenson is worth a read, by the way.)
If Svenson’s true concern is teen pregnancy or rape (which I doubt), she should focus her energies elsewhere; bullying transgender children or prohibiting them from using sex-segregated facilities that correspond to their gender identity will do nothing to reduce teen pregnancy, violence or rape. Indeed, Svenson’s strident and crude objection to transgender equality is much more likely to contribute to a culture of violence—including sexual violence—than laws and policies respecting the gender identity of all of our youth.
On the bright side, public policy in the United States is not moving in Svenson’s direction. Colorado took historic strides toward equality for transgender student equality earlier this year, when the state’s Civil Rights Division ruled in a case involving a young transgender girl (Coy Mathis) that schools must allow students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. Federal authorities have also increasingly recognized that laws barring sex discrimination in education apply to protect the equal rights of transgender youth.
Recent related Youth Allies posts:
- LGBT Video Highlights: November & December 2013 (includes a video about a transgender youth in Ohio)
- Texas Teen’s Fight Serves As Important Reminder: Federal Law Protects Trans Youth
- Room for (a Poorly Framed) Debate: A Faulty Premise in the Times’ Recent Discussion of LGBT Issues
- Transgender Day of Remembrance: November 20, 2013