Follow by Email

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Gender-Affirming Approach to Education: A Classroom Conversation

Dear Students,

This post is not required reading. You can read it if you want, and you can skip it if you want. Nothing in this post will appear on a quiz or test. Nothing in this post will have any impact on anyone's final grade. I'm just sharing my thoughts and feelings.

We had an intriguing and though-provoking discussion yesterday. I left campus thinking about it, and I want to share my thoughts with you.

As I mentioned on the first page of the syllabus, the material our class covers is controversial. The question is, how should children be raised? Answers vary. No matter what answer you choose,  there are people who disagree with you.

As I also mention on the first page of the syllabus, it's not my job to tell you what to think. If you are left-wing or right-wing, religious or secular, it’s not my job to judge the conclusions you reach. You can get an A in our class no matter what your conclusions are. Just follow formatting guidelines, be on time, attend class, and master the facts. The opinions are up to you.

It is my job to assess HOW you reach your conclusions.

I'm a big believer in facts, truth, scholarship, research, and civil conversation. I believe in the old quote, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."

So, no matter what  you conclude, whether I agree with you or not, I support you, as long as you reach your conclusions in a fact-based way.

Remember "analytical versus evaluative"? Analytical paths to reaching a conclusion rely on facts. Evaluative paths to reaching a conclusion rely on your conviction that you are right and others are wrong. Even more – you may conclude that you are good, and that those who disagree with you are bad.

I put more value on the analytical path than the evaluative path. I value facts.

Yesterday we were talking about "'gender-affirming" approaches to students who identify as transgender. In brief, if a child who has XY chromosomes announces self-identification as female, the gender-affirming approach would involve the school permitting that child to use the girls' restrooms and locker rooms, and teachers and staff would be required to refer to the student as "she" rather than "he." If a document I found online is correct, NJ teachers are required to do this, no matter what the child's parents desire. See this quote: "A school district shall accept a student’s asserted gender identity; parental consent is not required. Further, a student need not meet any threshold diagnosis or treatment requirements to have his or her gender identity recognized and respected by the district, school or school personnel." Source:

Here is where I became concerned. Some referred to anyone who disagreed with the gender-affirming approach as "dickheads" and "bad people." One student compared those who oppose gender-affirming approaches to the white supremacists who upheld slavery and Jim Crow. Further, the suggestion was made that anyone who does not agree with the gender-affirming approach is part of an effort to beat or kill transgender persons.

This is what is known as an "ad hominem" attack. Rather than addressing the facts presented by those with whom one disagrees, one uses insult terms to denigrate the person with whom one disagrees.

This approach, that says that people who agree with me are good, and people who disagree with me are bad, is widespread in our society today. I see it on social media all the time. People who support Trump talk about people who don't support Trump as if we were subhuman. People who don't like Trump think people who support Trump are a cancer.

This worries me. We all live in the same country. We have to live together. And yet so many of us are so ready to hate each other.

After class yesterday, I spent about an hour on google "listening" to what others have to say about the gender-affirming approach. I found persons deeply invested in this conversation who don't agree with the gender-affirming approach. These people don't strike me as "bad people," as "dickheads," as white supremacists or as violent. They just see things differently.

I found that there are physicians, researchers, parents, teachers, and transgendered persons themselves who question the gender-affirmation approach. I'm not saying that they are right. I'm not saying that they are wrong. I'm saying that they are civil, they are not calling for violence against anyone, and they are adducing facts to support their position.

I'd like to invite anyone who disagrees with these folks to do the same – be civil. Don't call your opponent names. And adduce facts to support your position.

How do we get facts? One way is through peer-reviewed scholarship in research papers. That's what I'm asking you to do for your final paper for this course. Listen to what others are saying about the topic you care about. Decide what question you can research with the  time and energy you have. Research your topic and share your results with others. Allow others to make critical commentary about your conclusions.

Not name calling. Not accusations that the person you disagree with is bad or violent, if in fact no threats of violence were made. Facts.

I welcome any feedback about this post. If you'd like to write something for me to share with everyone, either with your name attached or anonymously, let me know.

I'm sharing links to websites where people support their position against the gender-affirming approach because it was those people who were demonized in class. I will also share, beneath those links, links in support of the gender-affirming approach.

Here are some links to material supporting the gender-affirming approach.

1 comment:

  1. I really love this comment from the Times' picks comments in response to a recent Times op-ed by Jennifer Boylan

    Kalyna Katherine Lesyna
    San Diego, CAApril 4
    Times Pick
    What is it with the New York Times? All we ever hear in this paper is one side of the ongoing debate about trans rights; we never hear any discussion of issues from prominent gender-critical people. Every time I see another one-sided discussion, I seriously consider canceling my Times subscription. Trans people deserve every basic human right, but basic human rights have never included, and should never include, the right to have no one disagree with your ideas. Jennifer says that transwomen's "womanhood is not a matter for debate," but it is irrational to say that. Many intelligent and compassionate people, on both the left and the right, disagree with the ideas that humans can ever change their sex, that a person's internal feelings are more important than biological sex, that a transwoman is the same as a woman, and that a woman is something different than an adult human female. Jennifer, born male, may be recognized as a woman by law in some states, but Jennifer is not an adult human female and never can be. The rights of women and the rights of transwomen are sometimes in serious conflict, and we all need to discuss this, especially as the Equality Act is being debated in Congress. How about a guest column by someone like lesbian activist Julia Beck on the problems the passage of the Equality Act will present for women's rights? No good can come out of stifling honest discussion of this important issue.