What It Looks Like In Practice

“Matt, are you getting anything done?”

“I’m Mark. And yes. I’m on problem 13.”

“You’re Mark? No. I thought I had this straight. You’re Matt.”

“Nope. Mark.”

“Well, crap. I was just going through the quizzes and saw a Mark and a Matt and thought ok, there’s Matt who I always want to call Mark. And I was wondering who the Mark was, trying to visualize which Mark I was missing.”

“No, I’m Mark.”

“Huh. Matt must be in block 2, but I don’t think I have a Matt in block 2. But then, I don’t think I have a Mark in block 2. I have a Mark in US History, but that Mark isn’t one of the students I have for both US History and Trig. This is all very confusing.”

Tonee snorts. “Dude’s just messin’ with you. That’s Matt.”

“Oh. Phew. Left to be discovered is who’s Mark. But don’t do that, Matt.” Matt grins, the class gets back, somewhat noisily, to work. I wander round the room one more time, then settle in to my desk to put the quiz grades in.

Casey meanders up to my desk. “I think I can clear up some of your confusion.”

I look at the petite, redhaired senior, delicate features marred (in my view) by two horrible lip piercings. “You can? What confusion?”

“The Mark/Matt thing.”

“Oh! Lord, that was, like 20 minutes ago. I’d forgotten all about it. You know the Mark I’ve somehow completely lost track of?”

“I am Mark.”

I stop typing. Look over at, it turns out, Mark, who I learned for the first time last year was merely biologically female when an ex-student Connie walked by and said “Hey, you have my foster brother Casey in your class. He says you’re great!” and only acknowledged after ten minutes of demands that Casey wasn’t “actually a guy, but you know, wants to be.”


“I’m sorry.”


“I used my last name! I thought that would be the clue.”

“Case…Mark, I can’t even remember Matt isn’t Mark, and you think I keep track of last names? Sh**.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m swearing because I made a public deal out of this and I’m feeling bad. It’s not you. Any other sane teacher would have wondered wait, who the hell is Mark on this quiz and resolved it right then, but I’m teaching so many different classes with so many repeating students and doubled up students I just figured I was forgetting someone. And I shouldn’t swear, of course, but you’re a senior. Anyway, I’m sorry for screwing this up.”

“Well, I wouldn’t have used my new name, but you were so cool about it last year…”

“I was so cool last year? I kept on screwing up your pronoun.”

“You were so really nice about it. I appreciated your support.”

“You’re nuts. Anyway, what the hell? I thought Casey was your new name.”

“Yeah, I decided on Mark.”

“OK. Thanks.”

“I’m really so…”

“Shut up. I’m a disorganized teacher. This happens. Get back to work.”

Later on, giving the tests back, I say “Matt, come get your quiz.”

“I’m Mark.”

“No. You’re Matt.” Matt starts to wilt under my glare, but notices who comes up to get Mark’s quiz and doesn’t claim to be Mark again.

Related news: A special ed teacher told me I was selected by two of her senior students as the one they most enjoyed having and asked me to put together a little paragraph as part of a plaque she’s giving to each. One of them, Victor, wears makeup, nail polish, and curly hair in a casual bun. I’ve heard Victor doesn’t like to be called gay.

I hope Casey and Victor forgive me, should they ever learn that I thought the Obama directive on k-12 schools and transgender bathrooms to be idiotic and enraging. I’m quite worried that the current Supreme Court will decide it makes perfect sense to force to accomodate transgender teens in their quest for bathroom freedom. Given the conservative Justices’ contempt for public school teachers, my original fear was they’d give Gavin bathroom rights to strike one more nail in our coffin. But I wronged them mightily; the four conservatives voted to overturn the Fourth Court, with Justice Breyer the only hope as a swing vote, voting with the conservatives as a “courtesy” to maintain the status quo, the horrible repressive status quo we live in now, the one that allows us to ignore Obama’s directive and require bathrooms match biology.

I believe those who adamantly insist on having gender reaassigment surgery are mentally ill. Kids who want to be the opposite gender are probably going through a phase. Some simply love the attention; others are depressed or troubled. Still others just like being different. I have no problem with respecting phases. I’m appalled by the current trend of honoring these phases to the extent of hormones and gender surgery, and pleased that the Trump administration appears to be undoing the Obama idiocy.

I’m blissfully untroubled by the knowledge of what bathroom Mark who was once Casey uses. Every so often one of our more adamant social justice teachers gets up and demands that our grading and attendance software “reflect our students’ desired gender” and I roll my eyes so hard I get a seizure but beyond that we haven’t had any staff discussions on the subject. Please, god, keep it that way.

I wonder if many people opining on transgender schools understand how schools handle them. Do they know what it looks like in practice? Do they think schools are busy insisting on biological reality? Quite the contrary, and political views aren’t really involved.

I treat transgender kids the same way I’d treat other kids who face difficult social situations. I call them whatever the hell they want. I try to avoid pronouns (as I have in this piece) because they’re much tougher than names. I would ruthlessly step on any teasing or harassment, assuming kids in our world-wise school would ever be so mean. I will leave decisions on their gender treatment to their parents or guardians. My job is to educate them to the best of my and their ability, and to the extent possible, make them feel safe and comfortable as they navigate the crazy teen years.

If Gavin Grimm loses the case, I doubt schools will do anything differently. Most teachers will go much further than I do in supporting students who identify as transgender.

If Gavin wins the case, I expect that charter schools will soon have one more advantage that they’ll never mention directly, but will nonetheless be seen as a clear advantage by otherwise progressive parents. And there will be one more item to add to the meme “Why Trump Won”.

About educationrealist

8 responses to “What It Looks Like In Practice

  • David Griswold

    I am confused by this post. If you have no problem honoring “phases”, why do you have a problem letting those phases determine the bathroom used? What is the obsession with bathrooms anyway?

    The main difference bathrooms have from every other place on a high school campus is their isolation. Which means they can be dangerous for the picked upon, which trans kids, phase or otherwise, certainly are. So if using the other bathroom makes somebody feel safer (or honestly actually BE safer) what is the harm? And before you roll your eyes at that remember that you live in California, not the deep South.

    (And don’t say boys will dress up as girls just to get into a girls bathroom because that is patently ridiculous and I’m sure you know it.)

    The obsession with bathroom gender purity is not about lust. Otherwise, the fact that gay people OBVIOUSLY EXIST has to come into the conversation, and it never really does.

    I think Obama overreached with his directive. But I also think legislation in the reverse direction has no sensible justification and overreaches. I think everybody should have left well enough alone in the first place. It wasn’t the SJW libs who introduced the NC bathroom bill and started this fight. It was the state legislature, trying to force their views onto the smaller local governments.

    • jay

      Cities are smaller than states, got it.
      Average North Carolinians should have kept their mouths shut, got it.
      Obama shouldn’t have overreached, but he was so cool everyone should accept it and move on, got it.

      On the cities being small point, Charlotte is more populous than: Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, etc. and isn’t it refreshing that a state should care about the people who don’t live in the big city, see NYC vs upstate NY.

      The governor of NC, formerly the mayor of Charlotte, was surprisingly ill-adept at handling a constituency he knew well, but if you don’t think there are SJWs in the “deep” South, than you haven’t been paying attention since at least the 90s.

    • educationrealist

      I actually don’t say where I’m from online, but in any event it’s pretty obvious the school was very obliging to Gavin Grimm’s transition and didn’t shame the kid at all. In fact, that’s probably why Grimm felt comfortable suing.

      It’s fricking Virginia, not the deep South.

    • DensityDuck

      “why do you have a problem letting those phases determine the bathroom used? ”

      So. What you are saying, in your comment, is that:

      *Forcing biological males who are currently choosing to present as female to use the male-designated restroom will put them at risk of violent assault by the male students, who cannot be expected to control their base urges.

      *It is, however, foolish to suggest that those impulsive and violent immature male students might molest or harass female students who are in the female-designated restroom, and so anyone who declares that they are “actually a woman and should therefore use the female facility” can be trusted implicitly and shouldn’t be expected to cause trouble.

  • What the Public Means by “Public Education” | educationrealist

    […] teach students in their own language. Nor were they expecting that they’d be forced to treat girls as boys or vice versa or any particular gender any particular kid happens to happen […]

  • Ricky

    Canada is considering making refusal to use a person’s preferred pronoun a hate crime. I’m sure you are aware of what’s going on at U. of Toronto. I treat my trans students in much the same way that you do but at the same time, the LGBTQAIPSIFIICIGITLSKSL social justice warriors will one day mandate what you can and cannot say.

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