A teenage boy is suing his school district for forcing him to change in the locker room with a transgender boy.
Joel Doe, whose name is withheld as a minor, says he suffered emotional distress when he was changing clothes in the locker room and a transgender boy was, unexpectedly, next to him. He alleges that he is forced to change clothes for gym class or face punishment, and he was not informed that policy allowed there to be a transgender boy in the locker room with him.
He is suing the Boyertown Area Senior School District to get the policy changed.
Of course some Christian and conservative groups have taken up the mantle of this boy’s dilemma and are making noise with it, saying he was “bullied” and “sexually harassed.” Groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Independence Law Center will stop at nothing to be jerks to transgender people, now that they have largely figured out they can’t win many fights against the gays.
Yet, I find myself with some empathy here for the cisgender boy as well.
One of the dynamics that is interesting about this whole conversation is how youth today are generally becoming less comfortable being naked in locker rooms at all. Anecdotal evidence says people in their teens and 20s today shower together less than they did a couple decades ago; And when they do shower together, they often wear shorts or underwear more frequently in the shower. They also change under towels. This isn’t just in high school locker rooms but gyms for adults as well.
While they are increasingly tolerant of LGBT people, youth today are increasingly conservative about their own nudity.
While someone going into a stall to use the bathroom should be of no consequence to anyone else, with locker rooms we’re talking about exposed nudity and communal showers. It is a different dynamic. It is.
It would be a mistake to label this boy “intolerant” or “hateful.” He knows what he’s been taught by all of society: Penises and vaginas are to be separated by different locker rooms. If I turned around in the locker room at age 15 and saw a transgender boy in a bra and his underwear, as this boy recounts, I would have been pretty shocked too.
Of course the answer is not to punish the school system or, even worse, this transgender boy, the way these Christian organizations are trying to do.
Making sure the law leaves open the right of people to express who they are and be who they are is key. Within that, finding solutions that fit the people involved will continue to be paramount. Listening and working together is key.