Saturday, January 9, 2016

Expanding the Circle Despite the Pioneer Press

This morning's newspapers each carried a story about a controversy at one of our local charter schools, Nova Classical Academy. It seems a 5-year-old enrolled this year who is gender nonconforming, and the staff is working to make sure the child is accepted. Some parents (and the usual right-wing culture warriors) are fighting this.

That's exactly how the Star Tribune headlined its story and described the situation in the lead:

Transgender policy sparks heated debate at St. Paul charter school
Case of 5-year-old is controversial territory as parents and outside groups weigh in.

A heated debate over how to address the needs of transgender and gender-nonconforming students has dragged out for months at a public charter school in St. Paul, drawing in state activists and pitting parents against one another.

The dispute began when the parents of a 5-year-old child who is gender nonconforming asked Nova Classical Academy to help ensure their student wasn't being bullied. When other parents heard that faculty members were talking with children about such bullying, the school's board got involved, and outside groups stepped in.
No details are given about the particular child, except one quote late in the story from a gender-awareness activist, who said, "We're focused on a 5-year-old who wears a jumper to school, who loves to sing, who's a happy kid who just wants to go to school and be safe."

From that, I inferred the child was labeled male at birth but wants to at least wear dresses and may identify as a girl. But I didn't think too much about it.

Until I saw the Pioneer Press story:

The headline writer seems to have gone out the way to label the child as a boy. I assumed the reporter would be more knowledgeable and use more nuanced language, but check out the lead — it's just as bad, maybe worse. "He" dares to have "long blond curls" and "eschews" pants for a jumper. I guess using a nearly archaic word like "eschews" fits the 19th century angle they've got going.

What would have been wrong with saying "child" or "5-year-old"? They used "boy" several more times in the following paragraphs, just to make sure everyone knows that boys are boys and girls are girls and anyone who thinks those boundaries are less than strict is completely outside the range of normalcy represented by newspapers.

How can anyone learn to talk about this increasingly important issue if the press insists on pretending it doesn't exist? The circle expands, Pioneer Press, and we're all better off when it does.

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