A Break Down of Youngkin’s Attempt to Break Down the Transgender Community

The new model policy for the 2022 school year, as drafted by Governor Youngkin, will no longer allow autonomy of gender identification in schools by minors


Lizzy Howard

Teens gather to protect the transgender community

Have you ever heard of the 20-year fashion cycle? Well, alongside your favorite low-rise, boot-cut denim, you can expect to see the seasonal return of transphobia and gender essentialism. So, when you choose between an oversized graphic or a 2000s baby tee, be sure to check in with your parents… it could lead to an awkward phone call. If an Arlington Public Schools (APS) employee determines that your clothing does not align with your gender as defined by your parents, they are obligated to report it.


Thankfully, APS does not plan to enforce the New Model Policy instituted by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, which takes effect October 26, 2022. They take an inherently oppositional stance. However, the courts or disgruntled parents may challenge it at any time. Now, let me explain what it could look like for students outside of out school system.


“Parents are in the best position to work with their children and, where appropriate, their children’s health care providers to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school,” The Virginia Department of Education said. 


The excerpt above means that students’ parents may decide their child’s gender identity. Actually, just if they are allowed to express said identity. Suppose you are under 18 and attend a public school in Virginia. In that case, it is up to your guardians to decide, pending any medical or legal exemptions, your pronouns, name, bathroom, sports team, clothing choices regarding gender, and ability to access school-provided counseling services. A little scary, huh? Especially if your family does not support or recognize gender dysphoria, assuming you are comfortable enough to have already had that private conversation with them. This is where the policy can get confusing, though.


“All children in Virginia have a right to learn, free from unlawful discrimination and harassment,” The Virginia Department of Education said. “School division policies shall therefore implement the requirements of the Act in a manner that ensures no student is discriminated against or harassed on the basis of his or her sex.”


An important disclaimer, sure, it makes you feel warm and fuzzy to know that Governor Youngkin, and your home state, has you and your peers in mind. However, if we look closer at their phrasing, the very intentional use of “sex” refers only to a person’s born biological features. If you have genetalia that coordinate with your assigned gender, I have good news for you: Virginia has got your back (or, rather, your front).


“Schools should attempt to accommodate students with distinctive needs, including any student with a persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs from his or her sex,” The Virginia Department of Education said. “A team of appropriate school staff and other caregivers should collaborate with the parents to identify and implement reasonable accommodations or modifications.” 


Okay, that seems fair, right? They want to ensure that those struggling with gender identity have access to the resources guaranteed to every cisgender student. Sadly, that would imply that one could feel safe in reaching out to a trusted adult or confiding in staff, and, as has been made clear by the policy, that would be inconsistent with Governor Youngkin’s goal. Implementation of these measures is contingent upon the cooperation of the parents. The inherent danger of this is preventing a minor from academic or emotional education, leading to social isolation and alienation. By doing this, Governor Youngkin only increases the risk transgender students, who already face elevated suicide and depression rates, are at. Hey, at least they have a back-up plan.


“[I]f the student has indicated that the reason for being at imminent risk of suicide relates to parental abuse or neglect, this contact shall not be made with the parent. Instead, the person shall, as soon as practicable, notify the local department of social services of the county or city wherein the child resides,” The Virginia Department of Education said.


This way, the scared and ostracized person, by both home and school, can reach out to the facility that chose not to help the first time around. Now that they are on suicide watch, Governor Youngkin sees it fit to step in. A round of applause for the savior of trans youth.


Now that that very disturbing rundown is over, we can take a closer look at the school’s statement as relayed to me directly and with confidence.


 “As Principal, W-L will continue to be a safe, welcoming place for EVERYONE. As a school community that is our charge and that is exactly what we will do,” Principal Antonio Hall said.


Beginning with this comment, we can expect to maintain an all-inclusive environment for trans and cis students. To further explore this, you can read APS’s official response here: https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/arlington/Board.nsf/files/BDNQEE68DE84/$file/J-2%20PIP-2%20Transgender%20Students%20in%20Schools.pdf. In summary, gender identity and protections will still apply, regardless of parental affiliation. 


 Students across Virginia organized walkouts to protest the attempted change on September 27, 2022. There, W-L Sophomore Mars Cirtain, among many others, spoke about their experiences as a nonbinary person raised in an initially conservative household.


“What inspired me at the walkout was… I’ve never really felt like I’ve fit in anywhere and I have never really felt like I have had a clue what I was going to do with my life and how to interact with other people,” Cirtain said. “So, if I’m able to help by allowing people to realize they aren’t alone and they do have voices, then I feel like I’m doing something good.”


Because the Act will no longer encourage the anonymity of pronouns or gender of those in enrolled Virginia schools by staff, it was not well-received by most. 


 “I don’t think that any governor could outright say that they want to harm the citizens of the area that they Govern, but I do not think that his goal is to promote the safety of trans youth,” Cirtain said. “It does not seem to be his priority to help children.”


Whether you believe a minor should be making decisions about how they want to be perceived or not, it is clear that they should not be subject to any scrutiny or instability of safety because of it. Politics aside, a place where kids spend roughly 35 hours a week should never jeopardize their welfare.


“I believe [Youngkin’s] goal is to make families close with their children and keep them connected with each other. But, in doing so, he’s taking away the child’s right to their own privacy and, oftentimes, endangering the child,” Cirtain said. “Not all families are ready to hear or need to hear that their child is trans, especially if it does not come from the mouth of the child.”

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