An Open Letter to Katherine Svenson of the Delta County School Board

Dear Ms. Svenson,

As a transgender student and a GLSEN Student Ambassador, I am deeply hurt by the statements that you made. You are completely entitled to your own views, but your statements that I read about in this article were extremely inappropriate and hurtful. Regarding transgender students using their preferred bathrooms, you said:

Not in this district. Not until the plumbing's changed. There would have to be a castration in order to pass something like that around here.

Your word choice was not only vulgar, but very offensive. For one, there is a huge difference between sex and gender. "Sex" refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that determine whether people are deemed male or female at birth. "Gender" refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that society considers appropriate for men and women. It is apparent to me that you do not fully understand the differences. By making a comment like the one above, you are dehumanizing transgender students and stripping the legitimacy of their perceptions of themselves. Sex does not define anyone's gender.

Shortly after I became a GLSEN Student Ambassador, it became more apparent to me that there is a large number of transgender students who have gone through the same challenges that I have, such as this young transgender student in Colorado. What people don't realize is that one snide comment can cause an uproar or chain of events that can end up doing much more harm than intended.

My generation is the future of society around us. Of course, it is only customary for us to gain the guidance and the knowledge of those before us, in addition to learning from their mistakes. However, sometimes our views on what is right and wrong are skewed by the overbearing, out-of date morals of the generations before us. Teachers, school board members and parents not only set an example for students, but also pose as the people who could make or break a person's adolescent years.

These adults are supposed to guide us and support us through our endeavors, not hinder our growth as people. Public school is supposed to teach us tolerance and acceptance, not discrimination. When you set foot through the doors of your job, you are to abandon your biases for the sake of fairness. Each and every student deserves the right to feel comfortable in their community, regardless of what one's political or personal views entail. More often than not, we as youth don't have the voice to control our own experiences in our schools. Please think before asserting your intolerant, damaging beliefs. Is preserving these morals worth destroying someone's mental health and well-being?

When dealing with such a delicate situation, like self-image and gender expression, the views and morals of bystanders do not validate discrimination against a certain type of person. No one knows what is best for a student other than the student himself/herself/zirself. No outside view should be able to interfere with a student's rights, and yet, time and time again, it is happening behind school walls.

By coming out as transgender at my school, I chose to be true to myself, but apparently I also chose to separate myself from my fellow students. Not only was I treated differently, but it was made very apparent that I was "disgusting" and not welcome within the walls of my school, even after three years of participating in school extracurricular activities and holding leadership positions in various student clubs. I was told that I made people feel so uncomfortable that I was no longer allowed my leadership privileges; in essence, I was no longer seen as an important student. After all those years that I'd poured my heart out into that school, my senior year no longer exhibited all my achievements. Instead it showcased how different everyone perceived me to be. It was torture for me to set foot into my school every day.

The ridicule that I received from the adults in the school system made me feel less and less welcome every day. I felt so unsafe that less than two months after my senior year began, I quit. It was so hard for me to grasp the fact that the adults who were there to support me no longer felt that they had an obligation to; just because I was different, I was seen as a burden.

Think before you speak against a student's rights on the basis of your destructive morals. You may create a chain of events that could alter someone's life for the worse. Remember your role as an adult, remember your role as a leader, and remember to always strive to better the youth in your community, rather than hindering their growth.

Dannie Dobbins

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