Whether you feel a lot safer because we are now requiring rodeo clowns to attend “sensitivity training,” I want to admit that when I heard this I breathed a sign of relief. Of course, I first thought this applied to all clowns – so I thought that when Congress and the president returned from their vacations, this included them as well. Well, one small step for America – but it could have been much greater. By the way, I understand that the instructor is going to be Bill Maher with Vice President Joe Biden on standby as a sub.
I do not disagree with the premise that there is a lot of sensitivity training that needs to be done in America. Little things like helping an elderly person with her groceries or actually allowing pedestrians the right of way used to be things that we did regularly. We didn’t need to go to a special classroom for this training – because our classrooms were to be found all throughout the country. We called them our homes.
Not every home had the perfect environment and our parents didn’t always make the best decisions. But if I had to choose between having mom and dad tell me what to do or having government do that, I would opt for listening to my parents. I think most people would.
So now we come to the state of California and its recent provision that will allow transgendered students, beginning in kindergarten through high school, the ability to use either the boys or girls bathrooms; to play sports on either the boys or girls teams; and to use either the boys or girls locker rooms – depending on which side of their personality they felt was dominant – irrespective of their genitalia.
When I was a kid, the assistant superintendent in our apartment building was a man by the name of Willie. He was a really nice guy – but there was something about him it was hard not to notice. He had a condition which caused large growths that literally covered his entire face and were also visible on large portions of his arms.
I remember trying very hard not to notice this “deformity” but it was pretty tough. On more than one occasion I remember reprimanding several of the other kids in the building after they made a disparaging remark about Willie’s condition. It just wasn’t acceptable behavior to make fun of him – at least it wasn’t to my mind because of the way my parents raised me.
And as a kid, I thought to myself how lucky I was that I didn’t have Willie’s condition. I could only imagine how he was treated by people who met him. I could picture that he must have endured thousands of involuntary stares and each one of those must have hurt. And there was nothing that he could do other than to go on with his life in the best way he could.
I’ve never met another person with Willie’s condition – and I’m not even sure that it has a medical name – although I suspect it does. There were no special accommodations made by our society for Willie – no special programs and no special assistance. Like all of us, he had to make his way just as those of us who did not have his condition. Perhaps we should have done something more for him.
But on the other hand, I also wonder how Willie would have reacted had he received some special “consideration.” I say that because a black friend who got a promotion in his Fortune 500 company confided that he wasn’t sure whether he got that out of merit or because his company needed to have more minorities in mid-level management positions.
But back to California. I have to admit that I don’t know anyone who identifies him/herself as transgendered. I can only imagine how confusing that must be. Nor do I know the approximate percentage of our population who view themselves that way. But I suspect that the number must be nearly miniscule – perhaps a fraction of one percent of our population. That doesn’t mean that we should disregard that small segment of our population.
But in creating legislation which attempts to assist transgendered students, we should also be cognizant of the fact that we are infringing on the rights and sensibilities of the 99% of students who are clear on their sexual identity. A reasonable person has to question whether this is a productive way to try to address this question.
Common sense would suggest otherwise.