Schoolgirl bullied by cis classmates and their parents

// 13 September 2011

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Old classroomBoth yesterday’s Worcester News and today’s Metro carry reasonably well-balanced reports of a girl, medically diagnosed as gender dysphoric during the summer, who has returned to her new school year with a gender-appropriate presentation.

To be honest, I’m not really interested in raking over the ashes of the ‘nature vs. nurture’ argument, nor whether the child is single-handedly upholding patriarchy by dint of being binary-identified, nor am I interested in reopening the debate around puberty-blocking medication.

What does bother me is the way in which the child has been subjected to transphobic bullying:

[Her mother] also said her daughter, who would dress as a girl in school holidays, received abuse during the summer break when she went to buy orange juice and milk from the shop and returned crying when an adult called her a freak.

Her mum said: “She returned and said, ‘Mum, I can’t even go to the shop’. We went to a performance at the school and my daughter went as herself.

“Some of the parents were unhappy she was allowed to go into the school. They were walking past, coughing, and saying, ‘That’s that freak family. That’s that freak child’.”

Her mum said there had been some bullying from the children, verbal and physical, but that many children had accepted her and it was adults who had given her abuse. [Via]

Compare that with this quote from the Metro:

Michelle Bridgman, a psychotherapist and project manager for the Gender Trust charity, described the child’s bullies as ‘barbaric’.

‘What it comes from is total ignorance around the subject,’ she said. [Via]

I can only agree with Michelle Bridgman. In this day and age it’s deeply distressing that there are still adults who not only hold transphobic views but whose children also seem to think such hate speech is acceptable, despite the child being supported by the school as well as her own parents. It’s a sad fact that as long as these opinions remain unchallenged by other people (cis and trans) then the day that we’re accepted as the full and equal members of the human race that we are, remains a distant hope. And as for those cis parents who have complained about what they say is a lack of consultation [Via], well, if that doesn’t demonstrate what we mean when we use terms like ‘ciscentric sense of privileged entitlement’, then I don’t know what does.

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Image Old classroom from Rsinner’s Flickr photostream, used under Creative Commons license.

Comments From You

sianandcrookedrib // Posted 13 September 2011 at 12:03 pm

Brilliantly said.

Especially this:

‘It’s a sad fact that as long as these opinions remain unchallenged by other people (cis and trans) then the day that we’re accepted as the full and equal members of the human race that we are, remains a distant hope. And as for those cis parents who have complained about what they say is a lack of consultation [Via], well, if that doesn’t demonstrate what we mean when we use terms like ‘ciscentric sense of privileged entitlement’, then I don’t know what does.’

evie // Posted 13 September 2011 at 7:18 pm

It’s not just ignorance though – like you said, it’s cis privilege, and it’s the way our society is structured by cis supremacy and patriarchy, and ageism probably comes in here too. Education goes a decent way to softening a lot of those problems, but ignorance can’t be used to excuse bigotry.

Jane Fae // Posted 14 September 2011 at 12:43 pm

Thanks, Helen for this. I was tempted to propose a blog post of my own, but think you have the focus about right…and, with apologies to the Board Moderators, those who want more up to date background to this case are welcome to nip over to my personal blog – http://janefae.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/loving-parents-and-transphobic-parents/ where i am keeping as current as i can on the case.

A bit of factual input, and then a thought of my own. The factual thing is that nothing whatsoever final has been decided. The child is not even receiving (as i first thought) puberty blocking hormones.

That’s a difficult decision to take, but believe me: if someone is genuinely dysphoric, puberty is a nightmare of possibly suicide-inducing proportions. So putting puberty on pause while the individual decides whether they are genuinely trans, or not, is a sensible move. Best info right now is that the parents are looking to do this when the child reaches 12 or so IF she still wishes to.

As for the bullying: yep. There is a lot of clever bullying going on here: parents pretending to care about the child or their own children, and hiding their disapproval behind a figleaf of concern. I think, however, we need to go deeper…because bullying is sometimes “just” bullying, sometimes a precursor to something else. A normalisation of violence.

In the recently abandoned trial of Brandon McInerney, who killed fellow Californian student Scott King, much was made by the defence team of King’s alleged effeminacy: students and teachers claimed that they saw “tensions on campus rising after King began coming to school dressed in makeup and girl’s boots”.

To which my response is a big, fat, huh? So what! I am sure tensions would rise at a KKK academy if a black student were admitted. But we wouldn’t dignify such an outcome by reporting it as “normal” or expected.

And that is what i am hearing here: parents talking about how bullying is to be “expected” – as though it is the most normal thing in the world and it is the “fault” of the likely victim in this case.

If there is violence, i am sure they WILL blame the girl: we should be ready for that…ready to say no to victim-shaming in whatever shape or form it rears its head.

jane

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