Mike Huckabee ignited a firestorm of criticism when he joked about wishing he could have said he was transgender in high school so he could shower with the girls. At least, he was partly joking when he said he would have found his feminine side and asked to shower with the girls. He was also making a pretty accurate, although politically incorrect and unpopular, assessment of the laws that allow people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. The LGBT community leaped to the defense of transgender people who want to use the bathroom they are comfortable with, damning Huckabee for a transphobic bigot who didn't appreciate the courage it took for a transgender person to come out with their own special identity. It was all very predictable, but I really didn't think much of it at the time because I didn't think that any school would tolerate a transgender boy showering with the girls anyway. Was I wrong!
Enter Lila Perry, of Hillsboro High School, Hillsboro, Missouri, a young man who's decided he's a young lady and who wants to use the girl's bathroom and the girl's locker room. As near as I can make out, this youngster thought he was gay for a while, and now he thinks he's a girl. The school, in an effort to please him, made a unisex bathroom available to him, which seems remarkably like sense to me. Lila doesn't feel like a boy, so he doesn't want to be in the locker room or the bathroom with the boys, and the girls shouldn't have to put up with a boy in their private space no matter what he calls himself. A reasonable compromise is to accomodate the young person with a private space of his own while he sorts out his inner self. Problem solved, no?
No. Lila decided his own private bathroom was not good enough. He wants to be in with the girls. He wants to go to the bathroom with them, and he wants to shower and change with them. He insists he is a girl and he doesn't want to be made to feel different from the other girls and he doesn't want to be segregated, comparing his situation to the kind of discrimination blacks once faced when they were not allowed to use whites-only bathrooms. While I commend a teenager knowing history, I question the logic. Nobody was offering blacks their own private bathroom with an outpouring of support at how brave they were for being black.
A number of students staged a protest when Lila insisted on using the girl's facilities, walking out of school. A few supported him using the girl's facilities. Parents demanded a meeting with the school administrators, insisting that the girls had rights too and that one student should not be allowed to dictate to the entire student body. And once again, the LGBT community has leaped to the defense of the transgendered, calling the girls transphobic bigots who don't appreciate the courage it takes for Lila, a teenage boy, to be in the locker room with a bunch of naked teenage girls.
It's very confusing. If this were a college campus, a man strolling into the women's locker room would get him branded a rapist and very probably expelled from school with a record as a sex offender. Rape culture dictates that all men are misogynists and that they are just looking to hurt women every chance they get. The words manspreading (a man sitting with his legs apart) and mansplaining (a man explaining something) have entered our vocabulary and those are bad things because men are doing them. A woman can spread out over three seats on the subway with her purse and her laptop and her umbrella, but that's okay. And a woman can explain whatever she wants, in as many words and in whatever tone of voice she likes, and that's okay. There are many more examples of a pervading dislike and distrust of men to be found in the news every day, but Lila seems to have found a way around it all. He's not a man! He's a girl, and entitled to all the attention and accomodation he can garner.
I don't know this young man or what his mindset is, but I do know that I am deeply suspicious of a boy who is using his sexuality to make his female classmates uncomfortable. While a large number of girls are protesting Lila using their bathroom and locker room, I haven't been able to find any accounts of trouble before he invaded the girl's private space. Even Lila, in his numerous interviews, hasn't said anything that I can find about longstanding trouble at his school. It seems like he was treated with tolerance and understanding and acceptance. Maybe that wasn't enough attention for him, or maybe he is a sexual predator who has found a way to ogle naked classmates without having to drill a hole in the wall of the girl's shower like the guys in Porkies. I should think the best thing to do would be to go back to the sensible compromise of having the boys in their private space, the girls in their private space, and Lila in his private space. He won't be happy with that solution, but it seems more reasonable than letting one student dictate to a whole school, particularly when young girls are unhappy about a young man in their private space. If Lila is a predator, the girls deserve protection from him. And if he's just an innocent kid who can't figure out where he belongs in the world, he deserves the life lesson that the world is not always going to bend over backwards to accomodate him. Either way, I'm just glad I don't have a daughter who goes to school with him.