Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Ridiculous Springish Morning

This kind of morning is ridiculous. The leaves have not yet returned to the trees, so there is nothing to impede the streaming clear sunlight that reflects everywhere. This breeze is unlike those we have been having, the ones that made you pull your jacket-collar up tighter under your chin; this breeze smells like flowers, and it's just a little bit cool, blowing over the just-greening patches of grass.

Last week we were doing something up on the shelf near the ceiling in the kitchen, which is where the antenna for the radio is. It had been bugging us that when you were listening to the radio in the kitchen you had to stand in certain places, or it wouldn't come in right. It was worth doing, posing between the island and the dishwasher to get Howlin' Wolf (always pronounced "woof") singing "Smokestack Lightning" on WPFW nice and clear. But there are times you might want to move around the room, even when a great song is playing. So I was up on the stepladder, putting some pots away up there, and I added another six or seven feet of copper wire to that antenna, and now -- it doesn't matter where you stand. It comes in great. Taa-Daa.

I'm glad of that now, because here I sit, at the kitchen table, listening to some fast, arpeggiated acoustic guitar on the radio, crystal-clear and static-free, while I'm working on a nice cup of fresh coffee. Everybody else is still in bed. I just got some email from Europe overnight with a bunch of papers to review, and they want them fast, but ... first things first. I wanted to tell you about the signs the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum have been carrying to protest the new sex-ed classes.

The CRC had their "big meeting" a couple of weeks ago, and they had it all organized to look nice on TV. They had made up big yellow signs that they set on easels up at the front of the room. The signs are the same as the ones they've been carrying at the schools where the pilot testing is being held.

Here's a picture I took from the back of the room when John Garza was speaking. You can see how it's set up. I see four signs in this picture, and I think that's all they had. By the way, the three closest heads you see are TTF folks. Here the picture is cropped so you can see the signs:

Left to right, they say:

  • No unisex bathrooms
  • Don't label my child
  • Health before politics, and
  • No unisex bathrooms [again]

Let me go through them. Since "No unisex bathrooms" comes twice, I'm going to address it last.

"Don't label my child" is an interesting slogan. The CRC and other antigay groups like to quote a piece of research that shows that the probability of a gay person committing suicide is negatively correlated with their age at the time of coming out, or disclosure, that is, the younger you are when you come out as gay, the more likely you are to attempt suicide. The paper is not available online (and the CRC always spells the author's name wrong, which makes it harder to find), but you can read the abstract HERE. Well, actually, the paper's available if you want to pay for it. Which to me means "not available."

Anyway, the abstract gives us what we need. It concludes:
... Subjects were 137 gay and bisexual males, 14 through 21 years of age, from the upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Forty-one subjects (41/137) reported a suicide attempt; and almost half of them described multiple attempts. Twenty-one percent of all attempts resulted in medical or psychiatric admissions. Compared with nonattempters, attempters had more feminine gender roles and adopted a bisexual or homosexual identity at younger ages. Attempters were more likely than peers to report sexual abuse, drug abuse, and arrests for misconduct. The findings parallel previous studies' results and also introduce novel suicide risk factors related to gender nonconformity and sexual milestones.

As you know, not every gay person registers the same on the gay-dar. There are people who, when you learn they're gay, you're surprised. Lots of them. You also know people who push the needle to eleven just walking down the sidewalk. These are people who would be teased as children, and who would have had to "deal with it" at an early age, probably before puberty, because it was just so obvious to themselves and everybody else that something was different about them, and they had to figure out what it was.

Nearly thirty percent of the subjects had tried to commit suicide. There's no question, this is a significant public-health issue, and a terrible tragedy every time it happens. This particular study is showing that people who register highest on the gay-dar (for want of a better way to describe this dimension) are also most likely to try to commit suicide. They're also more likely to get in trouble for other things, use drugs, etc. That's not an especially surprising phenomenon, the scientific discovery that people who, lacking any other information, might infer that they are freaks of nature and unlike anyone else who has ever lived, would tend to be out-of-control and suicidal. This study is actually a call for good, clear information, so those young people know what's happening to themselves, and so those around them understand, too, and can help them through it. If you asked me.

The CRC doesn't see it that way. Here's how they take it: disclosing that you are gay at an earlier age makes you more likely to try to kill yourself. To them, labeling causes suicide.

Their reasoning is: if the schools tell students that there are various forms of sexual identity, and tell them what some of those categories are, students may categorize themselves -- "label" themselves. This act of labeling themselves then makes them susceptible to killing themselves.

Listen, this is bizarre, but I'm not making it up. They have explained this over and over. They want you to believe that teaching some facts about sexual orientation actually increases the risk for gay students. For instance, in their "minority report" to the school board, they said:
Research is conclusive in this area: the risk of suicide decreases by 20% for each year that a young person delays homosexual or bisexual self-labeling (Remafidi et al, 1991).

See? I'm not making this up. Labeling causes suicide. In their minds. And they do spell the guy's name wrong.

The second sign says "Health before politics." This sign reflects the often-hilarious blindness to irony that has defined the political right in our time. Look, the school district has written a new section of the health curriculum. It meets a legal requirement of the state, and it addresses a significant public health issue, the tip-of-the-iceberg of which was mentioned just now. The CRC itself exists solely to oppose this curriculum for political reasons. They had representatives from the Republican Party at some of their very first meetings, urging them on, coaching them on strategy. They are the ones with the political signs. They are the tax-exempt organization that endorsed candidates in the school board elections. Them, and nobody else.

We, for instance, never said a word one way or the other about any political candidate.

These are some strange, weird and wacky times we live in. But -- this is a health class. It would never have occurred to any of us to politicize a health class. This sign is an terrific example of the karlrovian technique of "projection," which is well documented (here's Digby discussing it). You accuse your opponent of whatever it is you do. If you're George Bush, you attack your political opponent for his record in the military, you say he didn't deserve the medals he was awarded. Then you force him to play defense, while nobody looks at the fact that your own military record is in the file drawer labeled "AWOL."

So here they are saying "Health before politics," even as they send out the press releases to politicize the health classes. Sorry, guys, it's true Karl Rove has this down to an art form -- or did, his magic powder doesn't seem to make things invisible these days -- but the CRC ain't got that talent. The CRC made this "controversy" political, and everybody knows that.

The last one: "No unisex bathrooms."

Many times over the past couple of years, news stories have broken here first, on the Vigilance blog. People call us, they email us, we talk among ourselves, we hear things. This is a big one. I could hardly hold this to the end, but I did it.

I am breaking this story here first -- reporters, please give the correct attribution when you write this up, and remember, it's "org" and not "com." Okay, here we go, pencils ready: It has been learned that almost all the leaders of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum have unisex bathrooms right in their own homes!

I have run this through the TTF Towers legal offices, and our team of high-powered attorneys tells me I am safe from slander charges here, since I have it on perfectly unimpeachable evidence that numerous CRC members themselves, possibly a majority of them, keep unisex bathrooms hidden within the walls of their own houses.

Let me tell you what these signs mean.

The CRC just hates the 10th-grade handouts that come from a Holt textbook, giving vignettes about some young people whose sexual identities are outside the mainstream. Hate 'em. The problem is, the vignettes make these people seem likeable, human, they make you empathize with the protagonist -- empathy is actually one of the themes of the eighth-grade classes, but the CRC hates-hates-hates that.

The CRC actually copied this page and sent it to the families at the pilot-test schools, assuming they would be so shocked that they would opt out of the testing, once they saw the truth about what was going on.

Note, these vignettes are not used in eighth grade, these are only for the tenth-graders. The CRC carries this sign outside the middle schools, too. Can you imagine driving by and seeing people protesting unisex bathrooms?

So -- the one they hate the very most. There's a vignette about a transgender student, Portia. I'll transcribe the whole thing here:
I am incredibly lucky to have such supportive parents. When I was young, I loved dressing up in pretty things and playing with dolls. My mother never made me feel ashamed. I began school feeling good about myself. Elementary school was fine, but by middle school things got pretty bad. I was made fun of, called names, shoved in the halls, and pushed down the stairs. High school was better in some ways. I had friends who stood by me, but even with their support, I was very depressed. I was supposed to be a boy, but every feeling inside told me that I was a girl. I hated myself. I knew I wanted to live as a girl, but I didn't know how people would respond. My parents and I had many long talks. When I said I couldn't go on lying, they agreed to support me. We had a meeting with the principal. I explained to her that I was transgender and that I wanted to be known as a girl and not use my birth name. I expected resistance, but the principal was incredible! She said that the staff had received LGBT training and wanted to be sensitive. She gave me a new student ID and a key to the teachers' single-stall restroom. Some of my teachers don't understand, but they're trying. I know that my experience is unique. Few transgender youths get the support that I was fortunate to receive. Hopefully, that situation is changing. I now speak about transgender concerns at schools and work with other transgender youths to help them get through some of the challenges that they face. I try to be living proof that a person can live honestly and openly.

That's it, the whole thing. The story of Portia. It's not exactly great literature, but it makes you think, just for a minute, about what that must be like. Gender identity issues are very difficult to discuss, because there are so many causes and varieties, affecting a statistically small proportion of the population, and because people who feel this way usually try to keep it to themselves. You might never in your life meet somebody who tells you they feel like this. So how would you know anything about it? Hopefully, you will spend two or three minutes in a health class learning that such a phenomenon exists and what it's called, and you might spend a minute of your life thinking about what that might be like for the person.

The CRC doesn't see the value in any of that. They read this in horror. Why, this story has a unisex bathroom in it!

It seems to me that there really are some bad things in the world. But to some of these nutty people, this is the thing that makes them spring into action, the idea that students will read a story where a character uses a "single-stall restroom."

Well, one kid is up. I have been informed that the bicycle tires have no air. They're playing some koto music on the radio, which I think sounds really cool, and I have gone through most of a pot of coffee. I have some papers to review, tires to fill, dragons to slay.

Go outside.


Blogger andrear said...

I admit that we also have 4 "single- stall" type bathrooms in my home. I guess I need to have psych studies run on everyone who has ever been here,right?

I was outside and am going back.

March 25, 2007 1:07 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Andrea, I couldn't get the attorneys to approve including this in the blog post, but I can say it in the comments: we are pretty sure that some CRC members allow children as young as four years old to use their unisex bathrooms without supervision.

At least you don't allow that ... do you?


March 25, 2007 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Thanks for the pictures, Jim. Now we can all count the empty seats ourselves.

The sunshine beckons. I'm outta here.

March 25, 2007 1:30 PM  
Blogger digger said...

Many, many empty seats.

I will attest that employess in Fairfax County Public Schools also use single-stall, unisex bathrooms.


March 25, 2007 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Andrew B. said...

This unisex bathroom stuff is outrageous. Your take on it is priceless.

I see the issue differently since I share a bathroom with about twenty other guys and girls in my dorm. Co-ed bathrooms have been around at lots of colleges for a long time, and few students have problems with it. I do admit it can be a tad awkward at times. However, at this point I barely even notice when I'm "using the facilities" next to a stall occupied by a girl. We may have different anatomy, but we all have to pee.

In fact, there's a bit of a controversy at my school because many non-residential buildings have gendered bathrooms. Yes, that's right, students here are actively protesting *gendered bathrooms*! Our student association passed a resolution calling on the school to offer unisex/non-gendered/co-ed bathrooms in every campus building.

I do not think that MCPS will ever force or allow students to have co-ed bathrooms, and they shouldn't. But when you think about it with some pragmatism, it's really not such a big deal. Moreover, allowing a transgender or transsexual student to use a unisex bathroom to avoid complicated and embarrassing situations is common decency. Common decency is still a Christian value, right?

March 25, 2007 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to a hospital or medical facility? Nothing but unisex bathrooms there. So, if it is good enough for a medical facility, who is to complain?

March 25, 2007 9:00 PM  
Blogger grantdale said...


OMG! You're right, but now you've said it ... there's unisex bathrooms everywhere I look. Thanks for that. Scarred for life.

But you know The Agenda(c) goes much further than just that. I'm now seeing unisex tram, bus and train services. Unisex supermarkets. Unisex Quikimarts on every corner. Unisex, unisex, unisex.

Has the entire World gone mad? It's all one big trangenderist-identified plot I tell you.

I will be more careful to put health before politics in the future. I must confess we have permitted children even younger than 4 to use the bathroom unsupervised in the past. Never again, let me assure you. Not knowing what is at stake.

(if by "unsupervised" you mean hovering outside the door -- stop watch in hand and listening to ensure same said 3 year old DOES NOT again decide to unravel the entire bog roll for the sheer novelty of it! Bless her cotton socks... bit of phase she's grown out of now, thankfully.)

and andrear -- 4 bathrooms??? Where do you live, the Hyatt? I find cleaning one to be tedious enough, but 4? Four!!! Glutton for punishment you are :)

March 26, 2007 1:10 AM  
Anonymous Tish said...

Many years ago a small tailoring operation went out of business in my Takoma Park neighborhood. After a few months a hair dresser signed the lease on the property and began renovations.

The painter came to re-letter the big front window. He worked from top to bottom, scraping off the old lettering and painting on the new, one line at a time. I passed by on my way to work one Saturday morning and the half- finished job said, "Unisex Salon - We Do Alterations."

I have always regretted that I didn't go right back home and get my camera.

March 26, 2007 7:12 AM  
Blogger andrear said...

Yes, I allowed young children under the age of 4 to use the unisex bathrooms with sometimes disasterous results. I shouldn't tell public tales on my own children but-- flushed underpants and wet floors.

As to the number of bathrooms, my real estate agent told me the secret to a happy marriage(do we teach this in MCPS?) is separate bathrooms.

March 26, 2007 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Daisy said...

It has been learned that almost all the leaders of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum have unisex bathrooms right in their own homes!

So the Garza-Cohen-Falwell cabal think it's OK for even preschoolers to use unisex bathrooms at home, but want to deny trangender students access to unisex bathrooms at school. HYPOCRITES!

Andrew B. got it right - allowing a transgender or transsexual student to use a unisex bathroom [at school] to avoid complicated and embarrassing situations is common decency. Common decency is still a Christian value, right?

Last I heard, yes it was.

March 27, 2007 7:31 AM  
Blogger grantdale said...

andrear, yes your real estate agent may be onto something.

Not because having separate bathroooms saves argument, per se. No, merely that you're too busy cleaning one or another bathroom to have time to get into a fight. Sometimes you pass one another in the hallway, buckets in hand.

We haven't had flushed underpants, but we did get a shoe. Or rather, a small red gumboot. Priceless. God only knows what goes through their minds at times.

(and, having had that flashback, I'm going away now to write that down on my "Things to say at H****y's 21st" list...thanks!)

March 28, 2007 11:43 AM  

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