Transgender students deserve to feel safe, heard

Ronnie Estoque, Staff reporter

Graduation is the long-awaited prize for four years of hard work and effort. This year, the controversy behind this prestigious rite of passage at Cleveland is how boys and girls are divided accordingly by cap and gown colors during the ceremony. For those who identify as gender nonconforming students – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) – it can be an awkward and unsafe position to be forced to choose a category to which they don’t necessarily identify.

The Journal believes that students should have the ability to choose their own cap and gown color based on the gender with which they identify. Seattle Public Schools’ Superintendent Procedure 3210SP.C, highlights the duty of school staff regarding issues relating to transgender and gender nonconforming students. It states that “Washington State law and District policy require that all programs, activities and employment practices be conducted without discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity.”

To elaborate, schools are expected to implement state law and district policy in the following ways: names/pronouns, locker rooms, restroom accessibility, physical education classes, official records, dress codes, and gender segregation in other areas. Specifically addressing the topic of “gender segregation in other areas,” it states, “… in any other circumstances where students are separated by gender in school activities, students shall be permitted to participate in accordance with the gender identity they consistently assert at school.”

For this year’s graduation ceremony, girls are required to purchase white cap and gowns whereas boys are assigned to wear red. Our stance is that by dividing up the school in this manner during a prestigious event such as graduation does not respect the rights of all gender nonconforming students.

The class of 2017 will be able to choose whatever color they want for their cap and gowns. Though it may seem like a minor detail, its impact is significant.

Not all issues involving LGBTQ students are so easy to fix. The rules relating to locker rooms and bathroom for transgender students are much more complex.

In a guest opinion piece in The Seattle Times, Samuel Green wrote about an incident when a man walked into the women’s locker room to change at a public pool. Women inside the locker room were alarmed by the man’s presence, but he proclaimed his right to be there since he identified as a woman.

Cases such as these are difficult to handle and comprehend because each scenario is unique in its own way. In this case, the man internally identified as a female but did not show any physical characteristics of a woman, which alarmed the women in the locker room.

The Journal acknowledges the need for safe spaces for transgender students, but coming up with a solution that pleases everyone escapes us. We believe that transgender students should be given their own bathroom, but to make that happen would require the district to implement those changes.

Cleveland prides itself in being an accepting community for students of all backgrounds and walks of life. We may not know the exact number of students who would be affected by this upcoming graduation’s color-coding rules for cap and gowns, but as a community it is our responsibility to create a safe and inclusive environment for all.

The writing staff of The Journal agreed on all issues relating to graduation, but was split on the debate about transgender bathrooms.