Commentary

A little town had a historic schoolhouse. It sat at the top of a hill and had a beautiful marble staircase leading to the main entrance. One day, a new family moved to town with a young son confined to a wheelchair. The school wanted to accommodate the student, so it did what any public facility would do under these circumstances: it built ramps.

This is what AB 375 accomplishes. It accommodates students struggling with gender confusion while preserving the historic practice of having separate facilities based upon a person’s biological sex.

Contrary to what opponents of the bill say, separate bathrooms and locker rooms serve important purposes that have nothing to do with “discrimination.”

First, they protect the privacy of individuals. Our nation’s laws have long recognized that people have a right to expect privacy when using the restroom or showering. For the vast majority of people, that expectation of privacy includes not being exposed to members of the opposite biological sex.

This interest is especially strong for those who are part of the numerous faith traditions (including Christians, Muslims, and Jews) that believe it is immoral to commingle with members of the opposite sex when engaging in such private activities.

Sex-specific bathrooms also respect the fundamental rights of parents to raise their children according to their beliefs. Parents have the right to decide how and when their children should be informed of the biological differences between the sexes. In other words, mom and dad get to choose when to have the “birds and the bees” talk with their kids. While such conversations may inevitably come up when children are talking on the playground, it is inappropriate for schools — through a policy of banishing sex-specific bathrooms — to force the conversation on parents against their wishes.

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And although much ado has been made about the White House’s decision to open a “gender-neutral” restroom, it is noteworthy that it has not abolished its sex-specific bathrooms. Rather, it has done exactly what AB 375 aims to do: accommodate individuals who do not identify with their biological sex.

Opponents of the legislation paint “accommodation” as a dirty word. But accommodation is an important and well-recognized part of our legal system. We accommodate individuals with disabilities by making facilities accessible to them. We accommodate religious individuals by, for example, allowing a Muslim girl to wear a headscarf even if it violates a school dress code. We accommodate conscientious objectors in our military by allowing them to serve in non-combat roles.

Accommodating students struggling with gender confusion is not discrimination. It is compassionate and seeks to balance the needs of the individual with the rights of everyone else. It doesn’t cause bullying. In fact, if a school sees any student being bullied for any reason, whether it’s because they wear a headscarf, use a wheelchair, or struggle with gender confusion, then the school should immediately put a stop to it.

Opponents of AB 375 want to convince you that the only solution to the issue of gender confusion is to tear down all distinctions between males and females — akin to tearing down the historic school building to address the needs of the wheelchair-bound student. But there is a better road — one that respects the dignity and privacy of all students: accommodate those who need it while preserving the historic distinctions between facilities for men and women.

Karen England is a Nevada resident and executive director of Capitol Resource Family Alliance, which advocates for student privacy and safety.

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