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HB 1008: Homosexuality, Titillation, Newspeak, and Accommodating Transgender Identity

An Aberdeen teacher posed the following pertinent question to Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark), prime Senate sponsor of House Bill 1008, the paranoid potty bill that currently awaits Governor Dennis Daugaard’s signature:

If we only consider transgender students and how uncomfortable people might feel in the locker room, how far are we going to extend that? Are we also going to consider students who identify themselves as being gay, lesbian, and how a student who is not gay or lesbian might feel in a locker room with those students? And where can we put those students if we feel that they are making others uncomfortable? [citizen question, Aberdeen crackerbarrel, 2016.02.20]

I like this teacher’s question. It gets at the fundamental question I’ve been posing since Rep. Fred Deutsch first vowed back in November to distract the Legislature with this culture-war kerfuffle: what are we really worried about?

HB 1008 supporters seem terrified that creeps and wise guys will masquerade as transgender students to ogle our innocent daughters. But should we not be as concerned that lesbian students will ogle our daughters, or that young gay boys will continue to enjoy the arousal of seeing our innocent sons in states of sweaty undress? If titillation is the real concern behind HB 1008 (and really, what else could it be?), our high schools need far more than separate but equal facilities for transgender kids; we need to build lockable single stall bathrooms and changing rooms for every student. If we can’t allow any situation where one student might get impure thoughts from looking at another student, then heck—given that funny feeling I got when I was fourteen and sitting in art class next the most beautiful girl in Lake County, we’d better put every student in a classroom cubicle so the only thing they can see is each other’s heads!

Alas, neither Senator Greenfield nor Rep. Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) addressed the Aberdeen teacher’s question. They missed the point of principle at the heart of the question

Senator Greenfield said repeatedly that HB 1008 has nothing to do with homosexuality. Sen. Greenfield reiterated his well-worn but still unsubstantiated anecdote about a sexual abuse victim who feels terrorized by male anatomy.

Senator Greenfield and Rep. Novstrup both resorted to their longing for the old days and their ciruclar-logic word games:

Greenfield: We’re simply trying to go back to a time when the designation on the door meant that that was who it was appropriate for [Senator Brock Greenfield].

Novstrup: There is your sex. We know what that means. Gender is what you decide you are…. today I’m a male, and I got decisions to make [Aberdeen crackerbarrel, 2016.02.20].

Rep. Novstrup also cited the story now popular in anti-trans circles of a man (more likely a troll) who last week entered a women’s locker room in Seattle last week to make a fuss about transgender rules. Rep. Novstrup failed to acknowledge that the man did not claim to be transgender. He also did not acknowledge the complete irrelevance of his example to the debate over HB 1008, which deals exclusively with K-12 transgender students and how K-12 school districts accommodate them. (HB 1008 actually excludes all adults from any bathrooms or locker rooms used by students, so the Seattle situation is doubly irrelevant to this debate.)

Rep. Novstrup said that the state is not judging or criticizing people, then fell into the Newspeak that has characterized this debate:

We’re just saying that we don’t want a boy to say his gender is female and head toward the women’s locker room. What the bill actually says is kind and gentle, and it’s catching a thousand times more heat than it deserves. It says boys go the boys’ bathroom or locker room, girls go to the girls’ locker room, and if that isn’t comfortable because you’ve got other decisions in your life, your gender is a transgender, then go talk to the administration and have them try to make it the best they can for you, especially if they’re not a reasonable accommodation, which means if there’s a third bathroom, let’s go use the third bathroom. But I don’t think having boys undress in the girls’ bathroom is the appropriate answer [Rep. Al Novstrup, Aberdeen crackerbarrel, 2016.02.20].

Sen. Greenfield and Rep. Novstrup say they are trying to be kind and gentle and accommodate transgender students. But they fall back to the absolute binary gender designations that they want to impose on every student by legislative fiat. They say “Boys use the boys’ room, girls use the girls’ room” to box transgender concerns out of the debate. Greenfield and Novstrup and HB 1008 thus do not accommodate transgender students on the fundamental issue that they are asking us to recognize: that gender is not sex, that being transgender is not a whim, and that saying “I’m a boy” or “I’m a girl” is not a casual or predatory choice but an acknowledgment that body and brain don’t always agree on such things and an acceptance of who that child is.

Jill Stephenson, counselor in the Aberdeen Central School District, appears to agree with me in this subsequent question:

Stephenson said HB 1008 forces transgender youth who appear male to use use female bathrooms. She says that HB 1008 violates the professional standards of practice of national professional counseling and education guidelines. She asks who will cover the schools when they get sued for violating those standards and Title IX. Rep. Novstrup erroneously states that HB 1008 will bring the state in to protect the schools, even though the requirement that the Attorney General represent the schools in HB 1008-related lawsuits was stripped in committee and explicitly rejected again when the Senate rejected Senator Bernie Hunhoff’s (D-18/Yankton) amendment to restore that state responsibility for litigating HB 1008 at the local level. Professing sympathy with transgender students, Rep. Novstrup then equates transgender students’ challenges with all of our “major struggles with all the different things that happen in our families, addictions and problems and disease… we all struggle is my point.” But he returns to drawing “a line in the sand” where “we’re not going to allow a boy in the girls’ locker room taking a shower or vice versa.”

The Center for Equality is holding a Trans Kids Support Visibility Day rally at the Capitol tomorrow from noon to 2 p.m. Many trans kids may not want this visibility—they just want to go pee and play ball. But this visibility is necessary to convince Governor Dennis Daugaard to reject Greenfield’s and Novstrup’s harmful, marginalizing word games and veto HB 1008.

31 Comments

  1. Jenny 2016-02-22

    I think if Brock Greenfield or Al Novstrup had a transgender child they might feel differently and not want their child to be subjected to even more bullying.
    Nope, targeting against a group of people is never the right thing to do.
    Let the individual school decide what to do if this issue ever comes up. Don’t make a mean-spirited, hurtful discrimination law.
    Maybe there should be a law saying that autistic students have to use a separate bathroom b/c they can’t be trusted in the regular restroom/locker rooms. Or how about mentally retarded down syndrome students?

  2. Roger Cornelius 2016-02-22

    It would be nice to hear from teachers and school administrators on how they have handled this transgender epidemic in past years.

  3. Jenny 2016-02-22

    Frankly, it’s no one’s business whatever sex you are. Only SD GOP freaks are obsessed if you have a penis, a vagina or both.

  4. Steve Sibson 2016-02-22

    Just look at how confusing things have become ever since the social engineers entered our schools and wasted time and money with this agenda. Another source to fund teacher pay is the elimination of all social engineering in our schools. I just told the DWC that we should eliminate the GOED to help fund teacher pay. What would those two cuts amount to?

  5. Bob Newland 2016-02-22

    It’s hard to imagine what kind of life a gay or transgender child would suffer under the parentage of Greenfield, Novstrup or Omdahl.

    I tend to think of the facebook image being circulated of a dog whose owner broke its teeth with a hammer for chewing her slippers.

  6. larry kurtz 2016-02-22

    Steve, nobody reads the Drunkards Without Compassion blog any more. Anyone believing there is no social engineering in parochial schools or by homeschooling is delusional.

  7. Jenny 2016-02-22

    If Governor Daugaard signs this hate bill, I will NOT be going to the Black Hills this Summer. I would love to see beautiful Custer State Park again, what a jewel. My daughter loved seeing the buffalo, but I can not spend money in state that ruthlessly votes in bills that discriminates. I can not and will not contribute my money to hate. My MN LGBT supporters are also watching closely.

  8. Madman 2016-02-22

    If the state creates laws like this why doesn’t the state use its own resources to defend its own laws?

    Also with this law would it be illegal for coaches to be in the locker room?

    Finally why the need for the law?

    Also Brock shouldn’t be trying to go back to times when things were simpler (because nothing has ever been simple). What’s next on the agenda outlaw breastfeeding in public?

  9. Madman 2016-02-22

    sorry a bit of a typo there. That would be breastfeeding.

  10. mike from iowa 2016-02-22

    If wingnuts like Sibby,Greenfield et al had transgendered kids,genital mutilation would be retro-active and mandatory. You don’t want students ogling others of whatever sex,ban study hall,segregate schools by gender and build separate classrooms for each individual student. No problem,no worries.

  11. mike from iowa 2016-02-22

    What would those two cuts amount to? Likely more graft for wingnuts assigned to handle the riches.

  12. Jenny 2016-02-22

    If Novstrup or Brock had transgender children they would have committed suicide.

  13. Roger Elgersma 2016-02-22

    When I was a kid we went out west on vacation and my Mom was rather disgusted because she thought some plumbers did a prank and put urinals in the women’s bathroom. She explained them to us and we agreed they were urinals. She thought they were very uncomfortable and they did not need the extra little protrusion on the front than catches the drips for men.
    Now if people would only find the urinal that fits their body, I think that if this is just a potty bill, all the problems would be solved. Case over.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-22

    Roger C., we may not hear a lot from administrators because they may very sensibly not want to draw attention to the transgender kids in their care. They may recognize that the best thing they can do to accommodate transgender kids is talk with them and their parents, get to know them, and then work out accommodations that fairly and quietly meet their needs.

    The transgender kids we’ve seen speaking out against HB 1008 and the culture-war-point-scoring of guys like Brock Greenfield and Al Novstrup have done so at significant personal risk. I’m betting most of these kids don’t want to make a production of their going to the bathroom… just like most of us. We all just want a little peace and quiet so we can do our business and get on with our day.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-22

    Jenny, I’d have a hard time giving up the Black Hills. Our legislators’ stupidity and bigotry is as bad as litter and uranium mining. We need to keep our state clean!

  16. Jake Cummings 2016-02-23

    Did anyone else find it interesting that Rep. Novstrup seemed to use “transgender” as a noun when referring to transgendered individuals in the video? Maybe it’s a sign that he’s losing sight of the fact that these are people too, and their being transgendered is one aspect of their humanity.

    Also, Sen. Greenfield mentioned he “read” about problems elsewhere. It’s great that he’s broadening his horizons, but unless he read that in a letter from one of his constituents detailing how this has become a dire local issue, this continues to be a non-solution in search of a problem. Maybe he should also consult research like this (but he’d probably dismiss that as liberal CA hokum from a team comprised of one of those spooky sociologists): http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/AFSP-Williams-Suicide-Report-Final.pdf.

    At the risk of sounding like our Gov., I cannot say I have ever met a transgendered person, but that’s largely because I don’t “lead” with “hello, do you happen to be a transgendered person?” when I strike up a conversation with someone. Come on, SD; we’re better than this, and I still hope this bill gets vetoed (unfortunately, I think possible loss of Title IX funding will be the real reason rather than the immorality of the legislation).

    Thanks for the coverage, Cory. I wish I could vote for you.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-23

    Jake, can transgender legitimately evolve from adjective to noun, just like homosexual?

    Thanks for reading, Jake! And even if you can’t vote, you and your neighbors can always donate!

  18. mike from iowa 2016-02-23

    Careful,Master. Wingnuts will parse your words “can transgender legitimately evolve” as proof that being transgendered does not include being born that way.

  19. Stumcfar 2016-02-23

    Normalcy sure makes life less dramatic. Abnormal behavior leads to problems and added expenses for the majority. Always cater special privileges is the liberal mantra!!

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-23

    Stu, it is not the Legislature’s place (or yours) to decide normality for everyone else in this issue. This is not special privileges; this is equality.

  21. Stumcfar 2016-02-23

    You are trying to make something that is not equal to be equal! It is a special privilege!!

  22. mike from iowa 2016-02-23

    Abnormal behavior leads to problems and added expenses for the majority. Well said and applies directly to right wing nut job legislators who insist their state’s rights trump federal law and continue to lose taxpayer dollars in court.

    What’s the definition of insanity? That’s right. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. And that ain’t normal. Except for wingnuts.

  23. larry kurtz 2016-02-23

    Pick a lane, earth hater. Lead ammunition is a special privilege, poisoning waterways is a special privilege, Monsanto causing spontaneous abortions without consequence is a special privilege.

  24. Stumcfar 2016-02-23

    Larry, try and deal with the here and now. Your delusional rants just prove liberals are way out there. I certainly hope you are off the grid? Don’t come crawling to anybody for warmth when our houses are heated with natural gas or coal fired electricity. You just sit in your grass hut and eat kale and dream of ways to give special privileges and continue to wreck this once great country.

  25. larry kurtz 2016-02-23

    America: land of the brie and home of the knave.

  26. Jake Cummings 2016-02-23

    Cory, I think questions regarding the legitimacy of that linguistic shift should be directed to the group most likely disempowered by the process — transgendered individuals. If they feel that is acceptable, I would defer to them.

    I perceived Novstrup the Elder’s usage of the term “transgender(s)” as limiting and exclusionary (but maybe I was merely baffled by his assertion that SD has “had alot of success with our lawsuits with the federal government”).

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-23

    Good point, Mike! Spinners, pay close attention to my italics. I’m referring to the word, not the people!

    Jake, yes, I will defer to the community on the preferred nomenclature, just as I am willing to defer to them on their gender identity and sincere desire simply to take a whiz.

    Stu, the simple desire to take a whiz without government interference ought to be an equal right you could appreciate. But because you can’t hear past the talk-radio karaoke, you keep missing the point. Rejoin us when you can think for yourself and articulate a complete argument without resorting to your comforting labels and bushwah.

  28. Jenny 2016-02-23

    Cory, what is the latest with Gov D? Is he meeting with the transgenders now and when we will we know?

  29. Roger Cornelius 2016-02-23

    It is always good when South Dakota receives national attention for its ignorance.
    Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner just called on the governor to veto 1108.

  30. leslie 2016-03-01

    http://www.salon.com/2016/02/27/i_thought_i_could_reason_with_antonin_scalia_a_more_naive_young_fool_never_drew_breath/

    by his fmr law clerk, Harvard prof:

    “Bigotry and ignorance inflamed by demagogues like Antonin Scalia, whose toxic rhetoric has done so much to incite and legitimate fear of gender nonconformity and elevate it to the level of constitutional principle.

    ***the enemy was to be found in judges who believe decency and compassion are central to their jobs,…who…decline to make their intelligence and verbal gifts into instruments of cruelty and persecution and infinite scorn. ***

    An inhumanity that survives as his true legacy, safeguarded by deluded acolytes and admirers.

    Scalia passed away in his sleep at a luxurious hunting lodge. He died as he lived, gun at hand, dreaming of killing helpless prey from a position of safety and comfort. May his successor on the Court have a loftier vision of law, and of life.”

  31. leslie 2016-03-01

    “I clerked for Scalia, certain he prized reason. From our leather chairs, we never saw the lives his rulings gutted.”

    Professor of law, Bruce Hay

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