Friday, June 23, 2017

The unhinged Mr. Staver - again

“With understanding comes the gentle kindness and common courtesy of using gender appropriate pronouns.”
Mat Staver, leader of the hate group Liberty Counsel is obsessed with all things LGBT. Rights and courtesies extended to LGBT people drive him to distraction. As I previously noted, Staver has come unglued over an Education Department  memorandum requiring people to use gender-appropriate pronouns. He sees this as an affront to his Christian beliefs.

Mr. Staver is also a Young Earth Creationist. Must we entertain the notion that the universe is less than 10,000 years old?

What is the big deal? There simply aren't that many trans and gender nonconforming students to begin with. What, exactly, is the point of insisting that a trans kid's gender isn't what he or she and his or her healthcare providers say it is? Why is it essential to facilitate willingly ignorance that is harmful to others? According to the Christian Post:
Title IX does not require a school district or teacher to call students by false gender pronouns. Title IX is silent regarding the use of pronouns, and it cannot be a violation to refer to students by pronouns consistent with their actual sex.
Staver also argued that forcing teachers to refer to students by pronouns and names that don't correspond with their biological gender is a “compelled speech violation.”

“[C]ompelling students to participate in a lie violates their right to free speech,” Staver added. “I thought we had seen the last of this nonsense coming out of the Department of Education. I call upon Betsy DeVos to end this new policy.”
Staver has a religious objection. It might even be a valid religious objection insofar as it conforms to religious dogma but that doesn't mean that it supersedes science and common sense. For example, there are many conservative Christians who believe in the geocentric model (where Earth as at the center of the universe). Consider this group's pronouncement:
We have all been told since knee high that the earth goes around the sun. It has become such an accepted fact, that almost no one questions it. What this website will do is to show that in fact geocentrism has never been disproven; …
This crackpottery has been embraced by both Catholic and Protestant groups. Those people breed.

Little Andrew is a geocentrist Christian adherent and because of his religious beliefs he writes a ninth grade astronomy paper “proving” that we have it all wrong. Andrew gets a well deserved “F.” Andrew's parents, with their lawyer, come to the school to complain. As far as the school is concerned it is not up for debate. The Copernican model is a scientific fact. The “F” stands. Side note: Neo-geocentrism is more pervasive than you might think. There is a great article is Scientific American.

The point here is that we do not have to intellectually respect and honor all religious beliefs. That's not what Free Exercise means. Similarly, we are not obligated to respect Staver's opinion; essentially that transgender people do not exist.

Similarly, requiring homework to display an understanding of evolution is permissible. We cannot require all students to believe in evolution but we can require them to understand it.

Not all compelled speech is prohibited. For example cigarette manufacturers are compelled to put the surgeon general's warning on every pack. On the other hand, children cannot be compelled to recite the pledge of allegiance. The question revolves around whether the government has a legitimate interest. For example, children are required to address school teachers and administrators with their titles; Mr. Ms. Dr. and so on. It is compelled but it is an issue of respect and discipline in which the government has a legitimate interest.

The government also has a legitimate interest in keeping vulnerable students free from harm. The government's interest determines whether the outcome is content neutral.

The facts are straightforward:
  • Gender dysphoria is a legitimate medical condition recognized by every mainstream peer organization.
  • It is a scientific fact that, at this time, there is no medical intervention to address gender dysphoria.
  • It is also a scientific fact that gender affirmation relieves the discomfort of gender dysphoria and that, untreated, the discomfort can lead to self-harm.
  • It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that failing to address transgender students properly is injurious to their health.
  • Thus, the government has a legitimate interest in protecting these children from bigotry.
In the final analysis, Staver's views on transgender kids or gender nonconforming kids are no more valid and no more legitimate than the many crazy people insisting that the entire universe rotates around the Earth.

Just like evolution, we cannot require students to believe that trans students have a gender that is not congruent with their natal sex. However, we can require them to understand it. With understanding comes the gentle kindness and common courtesy of using gender appropriate pronouns.

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