Thursday, October 8, 2009

Defending the Indefensible

Some people cannot seem to comprehend why those who have HBS or who are true or classic transsexuals might not wish to be included under the "transgender" umbrella. A perfect example of this can be found in "Autumn" Sandeen's posting on Pam's House Blend entitled "Georgia's North Cobb HS Sees Gender Conformity As More Important Than Educating Students."

This article concerns a Georgia high school student who "chooses to wear clothes that express himself." Jonathan Escobar wears, among other things, skinny jeans, wigs, "vintage" clothing and makeup. Escobar has an interesting take on how he dresses:
"I don't consider myself a cross-dresser. This is just who I am."
Now, according to remarks from a video linked to from Mr. Sandeen's article, Escobar sees himself as making some sort of artistic statement.Escobar, choose to leave school after being told by an assistant principal that he should dress more "manly" or consider being home-schooled. This came after a fight broke out when one student chose to defend Escobar after another student made derogatory remarks.

The school's dress code contains the following provision:
Administrators and teachers shall enforce the dress code Rule, and the principal or designee shall be the final judge as to the appropriateness, neatness and cleanliness of the wearing apparel, or whether or not apparel is disruptive, unsafe, or in violation of the dress code.
Now, obviously, Escobar's "artistic expressions" are intended to garner attention. I don't think anyone can seriously argue otherwise. And it would be impossible to argue that a student who presents as a male, dressed in such style, would not be disruptive.

The situation might be different if Escobar identified as a female. If he were transsexual, and was planning to complete transition, and wished to present as a girl, then then I would defend his right to do so. I would hope that such a student would work hard on being as presentable as possible, and would not be "out, loud, and, proud," and quite frankly would be far less inclined to be supportive if such was the situation, as that would raise questions as to actual motivation.

No, Escobar simply wants to force an this case, that students have a right to be different. Rhe problem is, like all rights, that one is limited. I certainly believe students have a right to be individuals. I support student's rights to free speech. I oppose overly restrictive dress codes, though I do see merit in some school's decision to impose a uniform policy. My daughter attended two public schools that had such policies, and the effect was generally positive. In her case, the rules were simple. white or oxford blue tops, and navy or khaki bottoms. There were also, as I recall, some restrictions on footwear to prevent students from expressing gang affiliation in that manner.

And, I would like to add, the issue would be the same if a student chose to attend school in any other sort of outlandish costume. For example, if a student decided to attend school dressed in some sort of costume, or period dress.

Of course, Mr. Sandeen is beside himself. How dare the school try to insist on some sort of gender conformity! What is lost in this discussion is the fact that schools are specialized institiutions. Some restrictions are necessary to ensure good order to facilitate the learning process. Escobar is not being denied an education. He is simply being denied the right to interrupt other students efforts to learn.

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