Welcome! We're joined by Blythe Bernhard, Doug Moore and Jesse Bogan - they're the reporters who wrote the articles about Mazy, the Jefferson County attorney and the Q and A.
We also have the editor who worked with the reporters, Jean Buchanan.
If you have questions, please ask using the form just above this window!
And TransParent support group: transparentstl.org
And here are some tips on how to be supportive of transgender family, friends and neighbors:
• --Educate yourself about transgender issues by reading books, attending conferences, and consulting with transgender experts. Be aware of your attitudes concerning people with gender-nonconforming appearance or behavior.
• --Know that transgender people have membership in various sociocultural identity groups (e.g., race, social class, religion, age, disability, etc.) and there is not one universal way to look or be transgender.
• --Use names and pronouns that are appropriate to the person’s gender presentation and identity; if in doubt, ask.
• --Don’t make assumptions about transgender people’s sexual orientation, desire for hormonal or medical treatment, or other aspects of their identity or transition plans. If you have a reason to know (e.g., you are a physician conducting a necessary physical exam or you are a person who is interested in dating someone that you’ve learned is transgender), ask.
• --Don’t confuse gender nonconformity with being transgender. Not all people who appear androgynous or gender nonconforming identify as transgender or desire gender affirmation treatment.
• --Keep the lines of communication open with the transgender person in your life.
• --Get support in processing your own reactions. It can take some time to adjust to seeing someone you know well transitioning. Having someone close to you transition will be an adjustment and can be challenging, especially for partners, parents, and children.
• --Seek support in dealing with your feelings. You are not alone. Mental health professionals and support groups for family, friends, and significant others of transgender people can be useful resources.
• --Advocate for transgender rights, including social and economic justice and appropriate psychological care. Familiarize yourself with the local and state or provincial laws that protect transgender people from discrimination.
That comes from the American Psychological Association
Yes, it is important to understand that gender identity and sexual orientation are completely separate. The percentage of gay people in the transgender community is similar to that in the general population. And sexual orientation typically does not change if you transition to the opposite sex.
This link is really helpful in addressing questions about those who are transgender.
Mazy's parents are concerned that she and other transgender people have access to bathrooms where they are safe and comfortable. In public, Mazy uses the women's bathrooms and will continue to do so. She thinks of herself as a girl, and presents as a girl in public. If she decides to go back into public school next year, her parents have yet to decide what conversation they will have with administrators, wondering if such talks are even necessary.
We were looking for a topic to experiment with in the STL Sunday section -- giving several reporters the opportunity to collaborate and do a deep dive. We chose this topic because of what happened right down the road in Hillsboro, and because of the directive issued by the Obama administration about students being able to choose which restroom they want to use. Our coverage of the Hillsboro situation had attracted a lot of interest, so we knew this was a topic that readers were concerned about.
The Hillsboro School District in Jefferson County seems to have taken that approach in its new policies. While the policies don't single out transgender, school officials say they will accommodate anyone with special concerns. They won't put somebody in the opposite sex bathroom.
Both sexual orientation (attraction) and gender identity (sense of self) are based in the brain, not in the genitals.
We disabled the comments on these stories because of the ugliness in the comments on past stories about the situation in Hillsboro. Mr. Good and Mazy and her family had been open with us for these stories and we didn't want to subject them to hateful comments. That's why we are doing the chat instead, to allow people who are interested to talk about the issues.
Paul, I'm not sure I follow. The brain is the center for all emotion/attraction/identity. Just as the heart does not determine who we love, our genitals do not determine who we are attracted to.
How do parents of a child who says they should be the other gender -- how do the parents know if the child is too young to make that decision?
I don't think there is such a thing as too young. People who are transgender say they have felt like another sex as long as they can remember. It is important that parents not discourage the child or treat it as a phase. Here is more advice from the American Psychological Association: "Parents may be concerned about a child who appears to be gender-nonconforming for a variety of reasons. Some children express a great deal of distress about their assigned sex at birth or the gender roles they are expected to follow. Some children experience difficult social interactions with peers and adults because of their gender expression. Parents may become concerned when what they believed to be a “phase” does not pass. Parents of gender-nonconforming children may need to work with schools and other institutions to address their children’s particular needs and ensure their children’s safety. It is helpful to consult with mental health and medical professionals familiar with gender issues in children to decide how to best address these concerns. It is not helpful to force the child to act in a more gender-conforming way. Peer support from other parents of gender-nonconforming children may also be helpful."
While the Hillsboro School District essentially wants students to put transgender decisions off until after high school, young Mazy's story challenges that.
Another point: we have all shared bathrooms and locker rooms with transgender people without knowing it. Transgender people want to blend in. It
is more dangerous for them to use a bathroom or locker room oriented to the sex they were born with.
Great point. The Hillsboro story, which drew media attention from all over the country, was an extreme case. Schools districts say they typically handle transgender issues quietly.
One of the reasons we were interested in putting together this package of stories was that it could serve as an educational tool. Much is written about the LGBT community but seldom is the T truly understood. We are seeing more transgender characters on TV, and with the bathroom issue playing out across the country, it was the right time for us to present these stories. Thanks for the note, Jan.
Why did the Hillsboro school issue draw such attention?
Lila Perry, a senior at Hillsboro High School, decided to say publicly that she wouldn't settle for a unisex bathroom anymore.
The publicity grew quickly.
And to have hundreds of students walk out - some in support, others in opposition - and parents coming to pick up their kids for "safety" reasons, quickly made its way through social media and was picked up by news agencies across the country.
As Jesse mentioned, transgender issues are often handled quietly by school districts, but Lila chose a different route to bring awareness to the complicated issue that faces school leaders in districts big and small.
Thanks everyone for reading our stories
and participating in the chat.
Since we closed comments on the articles, we wanted a way to hear what questions our readers had about the issue. Thanks to everyone who participated in the chat.