The Massachusetts Department of Education recently issued a comprehensive set of guidelines for respecting transgender youth in schools, including using the names and pronouns they’ve chosen for themselves and allowing them to use the appropriate restrooms. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly is not happy about it, and in an epic rant captured by Equality Matters, complained to Monica Crowley and Alan Colmes that the policy violates parents’ rights. His bloviating was rife with ignorant stereotypes about what it even means to be trans — including jokes about name changes — and he offered no compassion whatsoever for the actual experience of trans youth:
COLMES: There has to be some confidentiality. Some students don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents about issues like this. This isn’t as if you wake up some day and Jane says, “Call me John,” or vice versa. [...]
O’REILLY: The parents should be shut out of this whole process? They shouldn’t know anything that’s going on?… Here’s how insane you are and this whole thing is, and this is truly madness, ladies and gentlemen. You’re telling me that a kid can go to a public school in Massachusetts, immediately upon entering the school take off the kid’s shirt and put on a dress, alright, go to the girls’ room when he’s a boy, and then change his name from John to Tiffany, and then after school, put the shirt back on, go home, and he’s still John. [...]
COLMES: Sometimes a child needs the ability to have a confidential conversation with someone not in the family.
O’REILLY: There’s a difference between a conversation and a lifestyle. That’s such a violation of parental rights by the state of Massachusetts. It’s off the chart violation.
It’s unfortunate O’Reilly wasn’t interested in Colmes’ voice of reason about “protecting the dignity” of trans young people, because his goal seems to be quite the opposite. As Carlos Maza thoughtfully explains, gender identity is largely inflexible, and students aren’t allowed to casually change their gender or claim to be transgender for inappropriate reasons. What is important is making sure that trans students feel safe and included, because it’ll have a profound impact on their ability to excel in the learning environment. Similarly, if they don’t feel safe identifying to their parents, outing them only risks opening them to rejection, one of the primary reasons LGBT youth are disproportionately homeless.
The basic goal of these guidelines is to protect trans students, but O’Reilly makes it clear he doesn’t know the first thing about them.