There is good news for in Massachusetts-based transgender students and and their parents.
Last week, the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education mandated that transgender students be allowed to use bathrooms and play on the sports teams that coincide with their gender identification, reports The Boston Globe.
“These students, because of widespread misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about their lives, are at a higher risk for peer ostracism, victimization, and bullying," the new directives read, according to the Globe. "Some students may feel uncomfortable sharing those facilities, but this “discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student."
The decree was put in place to help schools follow the state’s 2011 equal opportunity law that protects transgender residents. Similar policies in various states, advocacy groups, parents and students were also consulted by the Education Department, reports GLAAD.
“Research shows that transgender and gender non-conforming students suffer higher rates of verbal harassment, physical harassment, and physical assault in school,” Gunner Scott of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition said in a statement on his group's website, acknowledging that there "is a lot of misunderstanding about transgender students and that some schools may not have the internal expertise to address all issues of concern as they arise."
Scott salutes the effort, but acknowledges that there has been some opposition. The Massachusetts Family Institute has argued that the bathroom policy endangers other students and violates their privacy.
"Fundamentally, boys need to be use boys’ rooms and girls need to be using the girls’ rooms, and we base that on their anatomical sex, not some sort of internalized gender identity,” Andrew Beckwith, general counsel for the institute, is quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
On July 1, 2012 the Transgender Equal Rights Bill took effect, about seven months after Governor Deval Patrick signed it into law. The bill bans discrimination in employment, housing, education, and lending, while also enabling prosecutors to bring hate crime charges in attacks that target someone for being transgender.
Read more about the new transgender directives here.