Editorial: We must get better at the way we treat others

No matter how many ways people find to justify or rationalize their behavior, discrimination is discrimination

Your age is no excuse.

Neither is your upbringing or where you once lived or your access to the internet. Not your political affiliation. Or your religion.

Society is moving forward, and it’s no longer acceptable for you to be ignorant and unenlightened and unaccepting of another’s lifestyle.

In the South Glens Falls school district last week, two students who consider themselves as trans-nonbinary (associating with neither male nor female) were told by the bus driver to either sit on one side of the bus with the girls as instructed or to get off the bus.

According to a school statement, media reports and a videotape of the incident, the students politely informed the bus driver they identified as male and that they had a right to sit with the gender group with which they identified.

The bus driver refused to recognize their claim and forced them to leave the bus before it had left the school. He neither notified school officials or their parents, nor made other arrangements for transportation for the students.

Despite the fact that the students were well within their legal rights to object to the bus driver’s order, many of the online commenters on an article in The Post-Star of Glens Falls found ways to put the blame on the students.

They stated that the bus driver has a right to control his bus and invoke discipline the way he sees fit. That’s understandable. Bus drivers do have a right and obligation to keep order for the safety of students,

Some commenters said the students were obviously pulling some kind of stunt, setting up the bus driver for ridicule by staging this little scenario. Certainly, teenagers are capable of doing that. They’re not all the little angels we expect them to be.

But that doesn’t excuse the bus driver’s decision not to recognize the students’ right to identify with the gender of their choice. And both scenarios negate the fact that had the driver not discriminated against them, there wouldn’t have been a “discipline problem” in the first place.

And others, of course, found the whole transgender issue to be a phony phenomenon perpetrated by snowflakes and liberals who just want to buck what’s normal and right. As if the teenage years and high school aren’t difficult enough, kids are going to deliberately expose themselves to ostracization, bullying, ridicule and mental health issues by pretending to be a different gender and standing up for their rights.

If those making the negative comments would bother to read up on it, they would realize that psychologists recognize gender identity issues as a genuine state of being. The American Psychiatric Association five years ago stopped classifying gender identity as a mental disorder.

That came almost 40 years after the psychiatric community stopped identifying homosexuality the same way.

Those who think this is all just liberal kerfuffle should read up on the statistics showing an unusually high level of suicides, attempted suicides, depression and victimization among kids with gender-identity and sexual orientation issues.

In the recent past, if you were racist or sexist or bigoted, you kept it to yourself, or at least only spoke about it among like-minded individuals.

But in the current social and political climate — with states punishing communities for addressing gender issues and even the president of the United States discriminating against transgender individuals serving their country in the military over the objections of his own generals — it’s become permissible again to air your bigotry in full view, and even to express pride in it.

You do indeed have a right to your opinion, and you have a right to believe what you believe. You have a right not to educate yourself, not to read newspapers, not to support laws requiring equal treatment for individuals based on gender, sexual preference or gender identity.

It’s just not allowable to discriminate against others based on those beliefs.

And no matter how many ways people find to justify or rationalize their behavior, discrimination is discrimination.

In their response, school officials admitted the incident was not handled appropriately. And in a statement to district residents posted on the district’s website, Superintendent Mike Patton said the students had “every right to” remain in their seats on the boys’ side of the bus.

“We do not tolerate any form of discrimination against our students,” Patton stated. “All students need to feel safe and supported when they are in our classrooms, on our school property or riding in our school buses.”

This incident is a reminder to us all — one positive and one negative.

It’s positive reminder — in the district’s response and in the supportive statements by members of the public — of how far we as a society have come in addressing issues of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

It’s also an unfortunate reminder of how very far we still have to go.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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