Council Debates Gender Motion: The Discussion as of April 6th
The past few weeks have involved debate in Council over the passage of the Gender Motion. This motion, which was introduced by Secretary Lilly Cadow of the Organizational Engineering Committee, contains provisions that, according to the motion’s Legislative Intent section, are meant “to prevent gender discrimination and make (non-cisgender) students more comfortable.” Non-cisgender is a term used to describe a person that identifies as a sex that is different from the one that they were assigned at birth. If passed, the current form of the motion would allow non-cisgender students to use single-sex facilities (such as bathrooms and locker rooms) and participate in single-sex programs (such as sports) that are meant for the sex that they most closely identify as. The motion’s provisions also encourage the use of more gender-neutral pronouns by staff when addressing students and would make sure that non-cisgender students are addressed by the name that they are most comfortable with; a gender-neutral dress code would be established at school-sanctioned events as well.
As of late (3/30), the debate has revolved around the use of all-gender facilities. While most of the Council appears to agree with the general intent of the motion, some representatives have cautioned Council to consider the feelings of those who might not be comfortable with sharing a bathroom or locker room with a non-cisgender student or staff member. In response, Lilly Cadow said, “Discomfort of some doesn’t trump the rights and dignity of others.” She and other representatives also suggested that certain bathrooms in central locations in the school could be specifically designated as unisex and/or open to cisgender and non-cisgender students alike. Later, Mrs. Stevenson voiced some concerns about applying the motion to locker rooms, noting that non-cisgender students could be susceptible to bullying in the mostly unmonitored facilities. Other representatives such as Harry Silbert also noted that there is significantly less privacy in the locker rooms than in bathrooms. However, PE teacher Ms. Quevedo (whose office is located in close proximity to the locker rooms) predicted that letting non-cisgender students use the facilities would not likely impact the existing situation in the locker rooms.
Supporters of the motion added that passing the Gender Motion would have many benefits for the school environment. They suggested that changes to the school’s policies could better prepare students for future situations like college when there will be a greater exposure to unisex facilities. Mae Butler pointed out that the motion could create an environment with less sexual harassment as well. They acknowledged their primary goal of making the school community more accepting for students of all sexual orientations once again too.
The meeting on March 30 was particularly eventful. Council had invited experts Reese Kelly and Michelle Kermond from Dartmouth College’s Office of Pluralism and Leadership to review the motion and answer questions that students, staff, and community members had about it. Kelly, who is a transgender man, talked about his own experience growing up and how he dealt with the way that society generally treated transgender people. He said that as a teen, society considered “any trans person a joke” and that this treatment was a large impediment to his development. He went on to talk about the need for greater acceptance in the school environment. In regard to the motion, Kermond and Kelly voiced approval and made some suggestions for additions to it such as adding a clause that would protect non-cisgender students’ privacy if a student wanted to keep information about their sexual orientation confidential from certain individuals. They also said that passing such legislation would prevent the school from being open to a possible Title IX lawsuit (EDITOR’S NOTE: Kelly was unable to elaborate on this when Thomas Judd brought up the question of the requires of Title IX coming in direct conflict with guidelines set up by the NHIAA). The officials also addressed questions and concerns from certain students’ parents. One parent felt very uncertain about the motion; she felt that “Hanover High has become anti-Christian and anti-Catholic” and that the Council wasn’t considering the feelings and comfort of those with other beliefs. Before the end of the meeting, Kelly likened preventing non-cisgender students from using certain facilities to racial segregation to show that both are equally unjustified. He then reminded the Council of the need for acceptance of students of all sexual orientations in school communities.
Council met in the auditorium April 6th where several supporters of the motion convinced Council leadership to ramrod the Facilities through the pipeline, passing with barely a quorum due to all of the abstentions.
Council went on to discuss the Pronouns section briefly, with it being described as over legislation and overtly long by some while also being called a “step in the right direction” by others, with both sides praising the spirit of the motion.
Council will meet back in the chorus room the week after break, hopefully with more chairs they say.