Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin joins GOP's war on transgender students

If Gov. Glenn Youngkin has his way, transgender students in Virginia will be forced to use bathrooms that don’t align with their gender identity. They will have to file legal documents if they want to change names or pronouns on school documents. Even if a student does provide name-change or pronoun-change documentation, teachers won’t be required to address the student by the new name or pronouns. And teachers might be required to out transgender students to their parents.

These new guidelines, issued Friday, are some of the most heartless rules I’ve seen bubble up from the right-wing-cruelty cauldron. They will be enacted in school districts across the state if approved by Virginia's superintendent of public instruction following a 30-day comment period.

It's hard to shame lawmakers who don't have any

Youngkin, along with other Republicans in states across the country, is targeting a small demographic of children who already struggle with inordinately high suicide rates. He’s bending over backward to make their lives measurably worse, to make them feel shunned. And he’s doing it to salve the discomfort and, in some cases, hatred of adults who don’t have inordinately high suicide rates and whose lives will be just fine regardless.

I’d call it shameful, but I’m not convinced Youngkin and those who support his attack on transgender students know the meaning of shame.

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and his wife, Suzanne, second from left, greet supporters during a rally in Chesterfield, Va., on Nov. 1, 2021.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and his wife, Suzanne, second from left, greet supporters during a rally in Chesterfield, Va., on Nov. 1, 2021.

Youngkin's new school rules are masterful hypocrisy

Consider the astonishing hypocrisy behind the new Virginia Department of Education guidelines. In one section, there is this paragraph: “Every effort should be made to ensure that a transgender student wishing to change his or her means of address is treated with respect, compassion, and dignity in the classroom and school environment.”

Sounds nice. But that paragraph is followed by these requirements:

►School personnel must “refer to each student using only … the name that appears in the student’s official record.”

►“Personnel shall refer to each student using only the pronouns appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record – that is, male pronouns for a student whose legal sex is male, and female pronouns for a student whose legal sex is female.”

►A school cannot force “personnel or other students to address or refer to students in any manner that would violate their constitutionally protected rights.”

►There can be no “policy, guidance, training, or other written material” from the school that “may encourage or instruct teachers to conceal material information about a student from the student’s parent, including information related to gender.”

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We want all students to feel respected – unless you're transgender

So Virginia Republicans want all transgender students treated with “respect, compassion, and dignity.” As long as they jump through onerous hoops to have their pronouns or name formally recognized, disregard any student or teacher who doesn’t accept their gender identity and know that if they have yet to open up to their parents about their gender identity, a teacher might just do it for them.

Oh, and they can only play on sports teams or use bathrooms that match the gender they were assigned at birth.

If that’s respect and dignity, I’d hate to see disrespect and dishonor.

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Spare us the spin, Gov. Youngkin – we know cruelty when we see it

Youngkin spokesman Macaulay Porter told The New York Times: “The 2022 model policy posted delivers on the governor’s commitment to preserving parental rights and upholding the dignity and respect of all public school students.”

That’s a load of horse hockey. There isn’t a damn thing in those rules that upholds the “dignity and respect” of transgender students, so where do Youngkin and Porter and whoever else has their mitts in this travesty get off saying it upholds anything for “all public school students”? How dare they couch this kind of hatred as inclusive.

Supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin gather for an election night party in Chantilly, Va., on Nov. 2, 2021.
Supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin gather for an election night party in Chantilly, Va., on Nov. 2, 2021.

As if dying to make things worse, Porter went on to tell The Times: “It is not under a school’s or the government’s purview to impose a set of particular ideological beliefs on all students.”

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I want you to imagine me, right now, standing atop a table, red-faced and roaring: “THERE IS NOTHING IDEOLOGICAL ABOUT A PERSON’S IDENTITY, YOU FOPDOODLE! IT IS QUITE LITERALLY WHO THEY ARE, AND WHO THEY ARE SHOULDN’T MATTER A WHIP TO YOU OR ANYONE ELSE! THE ONLY PERSON IMPOSING A SET OF IDEOLOGICAL BELIEFS IS YOU!”

Who here is really at risk? Certainly not the adults.

A recent study in Canada found that transgender teens are more than seven times as likely as cisgender teens to attempt suicide.

A recent survey by The Trevor Project of LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 found that nearly 60% of transgender boys/men have considered suicide. Among transgender girls/women, 48% have considered suicide.

Being transgender isn't new, it's just more visible and vocal than ever before.
Being transgender isn't new, it's just more visible and vocal than ever before.

I would like Youngkin, and any of the Republican lawmakers in state after state after state who have targeted transgender kids, to show me the data on suicide rates among people bothered by transgender students.

Is respecting another person’s gender identity and embracing that person for who they are, allowing them to live their lives, so burdensome? Is that simple act of acceptance driving up suicide rates among people who aren’t transgender?

Of course it isn’t.

The right thing to do is rarely this obvious, and yet ...

There are two paths here. One causes immeasurable harm to an already vulnerable population of children. The other doesn’t.

In what moral universe is the first path the right one to take?

I’d like an answer to that. And I’d like adults who should know better to stop harming young people for their own selfish gain.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's harsh rules on transgender students