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Archive for February, 2015

San Antonio School to Make Changes After Transgender Student Leads Protest

February 26, 2015 By: jaysays Category: activism

Memorial High School Transgender ProtestYesterday, we learned that Jayden Blake Castillo, a transgender student at Memorial High School in the Edgewood School District of San Antonio, Texas, had planned a protest at the school to highlight the discrimination he has faced. Through social media, Jayden recounted the problems he had been facing with the school. Many teachers, including the school Principal, Michael Rodriguez, refused to acknowledge Jayden’s correct gender and insisted on referring to him with female pronouns. The catalyst that sent Jayden into action was a recent episode on a school bus, when Jayden was forbidden from riding the “boys bus” under a newly implemented gender segregation policy.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. yesterday, Jayden, along with his parents, several supportive students and human rights activists, arrived at the school seeking action and answers. Several media outlets were also present. During the protest, Principal Michael Rodriguez, who Jayden alleges had previously been dismissive and condescending to him, greeted the protesters and invited Jayden, his parents, and transgender activist, Nikki Araguz-Lloyd to come speak with him.

Jayden emerged from the meeting with several promises from Principal Rodriguez, which if implemented properly should make the remainder of Jayden’s high school tenure more tolerable. The agreements included sensitivity training from Memorial High School staff and a promise to lobby the Edgewood Independent School District officials to do the same at all schools within its District. The Principal also promised they would stop gender segregation on the buses and would work directly with Jayden to provide him access to a bathroom, in hopes of avoiding future problems.

According to Roland Martinez, a spokesperson for Edgewood School District, the district is reviwing its policy on interaction with transgender students. The current policy is to address such students according to the gender noted on legal documents supplied to the school.

Jayden’s “victory” yesterday isn’t his alone. He’s bold action and bravery will undoubtedly impact future students at Memorial High School and how those students are treated by faculty and staff. However, there is much more work to be done to insure a safe learning environment for transgender youth. As noted earlier, Jayden experienced severe bullying at his prior school.

The Texas legislature enacted anti-bullying legislation in 2011, which provided for a formal reporting process for Texas School Districts with respect to incidents of bullying. However, the original text of House Bill 1942 and its sister legislation Senate Bill 471, were modified after concerns were had over whether the bill was passable with sexual orientation and gender identity included in the enumerated categories. To overcome this concern, the enumerated categories were removed and such enumerations were left to each school district. The end result is that each of the 1,031 School Districts in Texas will be responsible for determining how episodes of bullying are reported, making statistics gathering more difficult and addressing the underlying causes of bullying particularly challenging. Thus, district by district we must walk, to effect the change we hope to see within the education system so that students like Jayden, and every other child in our public schools, has not only equal access to education, but fair access to it.

Transgender Student Seeks Action and Answers for Discrimination at Texas School

February 25, 2015 By: jaysays Category: activism

A student at Memorial High School in San Antonio Texas is taking a stand for gender equality. Jayden Blake Castillo has experienced discrimination first hand during his tenure at the San Antonio school. Now a senior Jayden has issued a rallying cry to gender activists around the state in hopes of bringing attention to the issues faced by our youth in our public school system.

For the majority of Americans, sitting in a classroom based upon your sex never causes a problem. However, for transgender students like Jayden, such a small request as sitting boy and girl can result in an unnecessary classroom disruption. In spite of Jayden’s numerous requests to his teachers, school administration, and staff, many of them continue to mis-gender Jayden by referring to him with improper pronouns and insisting that he sit with the girls. According to Jayden, the principal of the school, Michael Rodriguez, has also refused to refer to Jayden by the proper pronouns.

… as picture day neared, I talked to the principal (his name is Michael Rodriguez), about how we were taking ‘girl’ pictures and ‘boy’ pictures. I told him I was trans and that I wanted to take pictures with the boys. He treated me condescendingly, said it didn’t matter, I would take pictures with the girls anyway, called me by girl pronouns even after I told him I was trans.

Most recently, this unnecessary demand came to a head when the school began segregating the buses by gender. When Jayden attempted to board the bus designated for “boys,” he was told to remove himself and board the bus for girls.

We take a bus in the middle of the day from Memorial to the Fine Arts Academy. Our buses were at first normal, then boys on one side, girls on the other, and then yesterday they were a “boy” bus and a “girl” bus. I got on the boy bus, and the bus driver started giving me a dirty look. She told me to get off the bus, and I told her I was a boy, but she wouldn’t listen. She contacted some other bus driver, said “some girl won’t get off the bus”, and I kept correcting her I was a boy. Then, some school cops came. They got on the bus and asked for my information (name, ID number, grade, etc.) They didn’t even care when I told them the bus lady was discriminating me. I had called my mom to pick me up and take me to the Academy, and when she came, the cops also took her information (name, phone number, address, license, etc.) I was the one in trouble.

The state of the law in protecting transgender students from this very type of indifference and harassment is complicated and most efforts Jayden could undertake will take years in Court to resolve.  By that time, Jayden will have graduated and there would be little impact for future students of the school.  Historically, Texas law has treated “gender” as that sex which one was assigned at birth, making many claims under any Texas law difficult.  However, Federal Law has been much more inclusive of transgender people.  Under Title IX, a school district generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of “single-sex classes.”  The U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines designed to protect transgender students in these single-sex classes on December 1, 2014.  Those guidelines instruct school districts on the proper justifications behind “single-sex classes.”  According to the memorandum, to comply with Title IX, it is only appropriate to use single-sex class environments in the following categories: (1) Contact sports in physical education classes; (2) classes or portions of classes in elementary and secondary schools that deal primarily with human sexuality; and (3) nonvocational classes and extracurricular activities within a coeducational, nonvocational elementary or secondary school if certain criteria are met.  Vocational classes may never be offered on a single-sex basis.

Further, in September, 2014, the mother of a 14 year old transgender student in Michigan filed a federal lawsuit against against Wyandotte, Van Buren and Dearborn Heights school districts, as well as a Michigan charter school, for continued discrimination and harassment of her son .  The lawsuit alleges that the districts not only failed to protect the student from bullying by his peers, but also outed him to peers and their parents as transgender without consent.  The district attorneys sought to dismiss the lawsuit early on.  However, just this week, the U.S. Justice Department urged the federal judge to deny the request to dismiss the lawsuit indicating that the boy has so far stated “plausible claims.”

While there are many provisions in the Texas Education Code intended to protect students and others against gender discrimination, a narrowed definition of gender used by Texas courts would likely exclude Jayden from protection under state law.  Historically, Courts in Texas have considered only the birth-assigned sex when ruling on a person’s sex for purposes of deciding on the validity of his or her marriage.  These complexities in the law and scattered resources make it difficult to navigate the proper course of action for people like Jayden, who are simply trying to obtain an education.

Throughout the country transgender students are often faced with choosing between their identity and the gender bestowed upon them by authority figures.  The reality is that the struggles the transgender community face are in almost every facet of their lives.  From bathrooms to buses, gender equity is threatened.  Jayden has chosen to take action via social media and through a demonstration to be held at the school today to protest Jayden’s removal from the “boy’s bus” and the harassment he’s received from school administration. You can find the event on Facebook.

Patricia Arquette was Right – Confessions of a Recovering Activist, Part 2

February 23, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Confessions

Patricia Arquette at Heart Truth 2009Thanks to Twitter and Facebook and a world of blogs like this one where people can spout out whatever opinion they have of anyone at any given moment, you probably already heard a bit about the “controversial speech” given by Patricia Arquette at the Academy Awards.

In large part, her speech was inspiring and met with applause and acceptance. Here’s the transcript of her speech:

“Okay, Jesus. Thank you to the Academy, to my beautiful, powerful nominees. To IFC, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland, Molly Madden, David DeCamillo, our whole cast and our crew. My Boyhood family, who I love and admire. Our brilliant director Richard Linklater. The impeccable Ethan Hawke. My lovelies, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater. Thomas and Paul, thank you for giving me my beautiful children. Enzo and Harlow, you’re the deepest people that I know.

My friends who all work so hard to make this world a better place. To my parents, Rosanna, Richmond, Alexis and David. To my favorite painter in the world, Eric White, for the inspiration of living with a genius. To my heroes, volunteers and experts who have helped me bring ecological sanitation to the developing world with GiveLove.org.

To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

She didn’t stop there though, and generally, this is where all the “social justice advocates” flipped the hell out:

So the truth is, even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are applied that really do affect women. And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now. [emphasis added]

Many in the blogosphere and purported advocates jumped on the bandwagon to “call out” Patricia Arquette for her comments, noting that by stating that it was time for people of color to join women implied two things: (1) that people of color were not already part of the struggle for women’s equality; and (2) that somehow women of color will have to choose between their gender and their race.  The same was applied to her comment for the gays to join the women’s equality cause with a similar response.  Many noted that gays and people of color have already actively participated in the women’s equality movement and are presently actively participating in it.  But here’s where I challenge you, dear reader.  This weekend, go to the nearest “gay bar” and start picking out random strangers, particularly gay men.  After you pick out about 10 or so, go up to each of them and ask them this question, “Have you ever been to a rally in support of equal rights for women?”  My bet is you won’t find any, but certainly it will be the minority.

You see, we, as social justice advocates, assumed that Patricia Arquette was talking about us.  We added that to her words, she did not.  She didn’t play Kathy Griffin and screech, “Where my gays at?”  She DID NOT say “…and all the gay activists, and all the people of color activists that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”  She made a call to all people and her words included women, men, gay people and people of color.  In the end though, we are activists, and as activists we have an ego problem.  We’re so vain, we probably think her words were about us.

As to choosing between your race, sexual orientation and gender, I don’t believe for a moment an ultimatum to choose was given.  You see, all of those things are inherently part of us. We can no sooner choose between breathing or eating.  Without any one of the things that make the whole of us, we are no longer ourselves.  The key to intersectionality is recognizing that all of those things make up our whole selves and none of those things are mutually exclusive of the other.  Until then, we are doomed to repeat the cycle of intolerance against which we claim to be working.