Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Virginia Department of Education Model Policies for Transgender Students . As a parent of two girls in the public school system, I am very concerned about these proposed model policies for two primary reasons: 1) they overlook the complexities of how children and adolescents might be experiencing life by supporting only one part of how that child expresses themselves and not seeking to support the whole child 2) they infringe on parental rights.
The proposed policies put how a child under 18 might feel about themselves and their [gender] identity without acknowledging or wanting to affirm all of the other aspects that make the child unique and human. In a recent podcast, Brené Brown asked her guest for the best life advice they could give in a slogan – their response “Don’t believe everything you think or feel.” Are these policies encouraging adults to jump to conclusions about questions children and adolescents may be having and feelings they are feeling by encouraging transgender expressions that might not be permanent?
These proposed policies appear to disregard the stages of adolescent development in particular. The brain is still maturing and changing and how adolescents understand and think about gender identity is different than how adults do. (see: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/Stages-of-Adolescence.aspx)
Children – adolescents especially – are often questioning their bodies, their looks, and their abilities. They are still learning who they are and how to navigate this world, but are bombarded with conflicting messages on TV and the media about gender stereotypes, sexual harassment and any other number of issues. All of these things should be discussed with children in the context of their feelings about gender or gender dysphoria.
Could these policies push children into a box and move them along a continuum of hormone therapy or permanent physical changes when for some, they just might just be trying to express themselves outside cultural stereotypes or “follow the crowd”? I urge VA DOE to consider the unintended consequences the immediate and total affirmation of a child’s transgender expression may have on a child or adolescent who cannot yet fully comprehend these feelings like adults can , and who later might feel that they want to go back to expressing themselves as the gender they were previously.
Could all of this affirmation (possibly without discussing with the child’s parents) be oversimplifying the bigger identity questions at hand?
2) The proposed policies would strip the rights of parents to care for their own children who are under the age of 18. As a parent, I expect the school to let me know when my child’s behavior is different, or they are sick or they are not performing as they used to, why would a school choose to hold this information from me as a parent, when any other information that concerns my child would be shared with me (health, behavior, grades, etc.). It is my responsibility as a parent to love my children and care for them in the ways I see best to support their development, education, health and welfare according to my family’s ideals. It is also my constitutional right.
The proposed policies suggest that gender is subjective to each individual person and can be therefore only be fully known by the individual and what they choose to communicate. There is nothing that suggests that we are a product of our nurturing as well as our nature – i.e. that the school should confer with a parent when a student expresses transgenderism to understand how things are going at the home. For minor children, schools should be working with parents to help children move through childhood and adolescence, rather than suggesting that teachers or administrators hide important information, such as this, from parents.