Editorial: Schools should make new policies regarding transgender students

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

For every step society makes to further social acceptance in regard to sexuality and gender issues, it seems to take two steps backward. 

This week, after a California school crowned the first transgender homecoming queen, a Pennsylvania school is refusing to allow a similar achievement based on past policies and procedures.

 In Johnstown, Pa., the Richland High School  board made the decision to prevent senior Kasey Caron, who was born female but identifies as male, from running for homecoming king. Instead, the ballot will list Caron’s name under candidates for homecoming queen. The school board ruled based on a prior decision, which stated that a person’s gender is that listed on his or her birth certificate.

Additionally, Timothy Leventry, the Richland school board solicitor, stated that according to Pennsylvania law, an individual who is born female is required to have a sex change operation confirmed by a doctor and to have her birth certificate changed before she can legally be considered male.

Policies such as those stated above are outdated and old-fashioned. In many cases involving transgender individuals, those in positions of power are only following policies set in the past.

Based on the number of cases involving transgender individuals in recent years, updates to those policies need to be made. Ideally, these revised policies would include an independent party tasked with determining whether one’s claims of gender dysphoria are valid. 

An updated gender policy would make the process for legally identifying with one’s preferred gender more objective and uniform, preventing institutions from discriminating against individuals who do not identify with the gender listed on their birth certificate. 

It would do so by removing biased parties who have been influenced by established norms within an individual institution. The evaluator would be someone with experience in the field of psychology who can make a decision based on established principles within the field rather than one based on legal documentaion referencing socially constructed social norms, which has been the case at Pitt and other universities. Forcing transgender individuals to classify as the gender with which they do not identify creates a hostile environment. 

It is time academic institutions provide accommodations for the ever-changing social environment. 

As long as governments and educational institutions refuse to update policies and laws, we will continue to live under dated rules that were devised by closed minds.