Conservative groups have been ramping up their rhetoric against transgender young people, particularly as they work to overturn California’s new bill protecting transgender students. Conservative media has now pounced on a story about a transgender student supposedly causing trouble in a girls’ locker room at a Colorado high school, but it turns out that the trouble actually came from some transphobic parents.
The story first broke at the Christian Broadcasting Network. Unsurprisingly, that report about a “male student” at Florence High School who “claims to be a transgender” [sic] “harassing girls in the bathroom” did not identify a single student or parent who complained nor a single complaint about what was actually happening. In fact, the story seemed to be built around a letter submitted to the school by the anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute demanding privacy protections on behalf of the girls.
The story was then picked up by the Daily Mail, Examiner, and Fox Nation, as well as other fringe conservative outlets, all of which repeated the same lack of details. But Cristan Williams of The Transadvocate thought the story was fishy, so she took it upon herself to talk to Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti herself and discovered some interesting facts about the situation:
VENDETTI: This is one parent basically bringing their viewpoint about this situation to the media because they weren’t getting the responses that they hoped they would get from the district, from parents of students at the high school, or from the board and myself. So I think it’s just an attempt to elevate the situation to a point where maybe some more attention can be drawn to that in the hope of having a different outcome. But to our knowledge and based on our investigation, none of those things have actually happened. We do have a transgender student at the high school and she has been using the women’s restroom. There has not been a situation.
Vendetti went on to explain to Williams that there has been no harassment or cause for concern; it’s just that the students whose parents are complaining believe it’s inappropriate for the trans student to use the facility with which she identifies. In addition, a majority of the school is actually supportive and the trans student is doing well, but it’s just “two moms kind of leading the brigade,” who of course wish to remain anonymous.
Listen to the conversation:
Since Williams published her debunk, the Daily Mail has removed its story and Examiner’s David McCaine published a thoughtful retraction, admitting that by publishing the story without fact-checking it, he “became guilty of false accusing a transgender student,” for which he apologizes. It remains uncorrected on all other conservative sites, each posting rife with hundreds of transphobic comments. Alex Jones’ InfoWars even asserts that the girls who complained are being threatened with hate crime charges, a claim not substantiated anywhere else.
In June, the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that transgender six-year-old Coy Mathis was entitled to use the girls’ room at her school, despite the school’s attempts to prevent her from doing so. The same precedent would likely protect the student at Florence High School, at least legally, but the school seems to be doing the right thing by recognizing her gender identity and protecting her from discrimination. LGBT young people experience overwhelming rates of bullying based on their real or perceived identities, and unfortunately, not much can shield them from the rampant anti-transgender sentiments that a few parents can stir up in communities and across the country.