TROY — Parents and the community were invited to a special presentation at Troy High School on Thursday explaining what transgenderism is from a medical standpoint.
Superintendent Eric Herman said Troy graduate and Director of the Transgender Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Lee Ann Conard called him and asked to make the presentation.
Conard works with 300 transgender patients and their families. She began the presentation by saying that the major issue to keep in mind was the health and safety of all students, although how to achieve those ends is going to differ for each case.
“How parents do it varies,” she said.
According to Conard, the first thing babies are assigned before they are born is a gender of either boy or girl.
However, gender is a social construct, which includes a person’s individual gender identification, who they are attracted to, what exactly their reproductive reasons are, and how they choose to display their gender.
Transgender people may have the external organs of either a male or a female, but do not feel or think that they are the gender they were assigned at birth.
“We use the terms cisgender for someone who identifies completely as male or female, or transgender for someone who does not identify with the sex they were born into,” she said.
The prevalence of individuals who have a gender variant is 1:500, which is approximately 2-5 percent of the general population. Patients who have transitioned are 1:20,000, or make up .25-1 percent of the population.
“Being transgender is a medical condition and is not a choice, contrary to what some may believe,” Conard said. “Culture can play a part of it if the family of the transgender patient is accepting, and there has been some genetic link. There are brain differences in the hypothalamus if someone is transgender that cisgender people don’t have.”
Conard said the clinic has seen an increase in patients and their families within the past year, which she credits to the suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn last December. Transgender people have higher rates of suicide than the general population — 41 percent to 4.6 percent — and report higher incidences of harassment, bullying and alienation.
Conard said the families who come to the clinic are working so their child doesn’t have to experience the same hardships as Alcorn.
“The best thing to do now is create a safe environments in schools for transgender students,” she said. “Restrooms are a huge area of concern for transgender students because that is where the harassment happens. However, this is not a transgender issue; it’s a behavior issue. There’s nothing stopping boys from bullying boys or girls from bullying girls, regardless of whether they’re transgender or not, so becoming proactive with behaviors is the big step in the right direction.”
She also shared how allowing transgender students to use a current photo or go by their chosen name establishes a respect for who they are as an individual and generally speaking, to use basic etiquette with strangers and personal topics.
“If you’re ever wondering about someone’s gender, here’s what you do: don’t,” she said. “Our culture has become more open to asking personal questions thanks to social media like Facebook and what you see on reality TV. But for transgender people or anyone, the question (of being transgender) just isn’t anyone’s business.”
Former Troy City Schools Superintendent Jim Daniels served as the moderator during the question and answer segment, where Conard answered questions on topics such as how her medical team treats transgender children and policy topics.
Parent Eric McCann voiced his concern about the statistic of how 78 percent of transgender students are harassed or assaulted in the school bathroom and asked what could be done to protect all students.
“It’s typically the only part of the school that isn’t policed,” he said.
He said afterward the presentation was informative, although he was looking to find some answers to policy questions he still has.
Lindsay Bohan, the social media coordinator with Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network Greater Dayton, heard about the transgender issue at Troy following the bathroom policy and decided to come to the presentation.
“It’s really important to not only talk about the kind of things happening in the Troy community and with the issues that they’re facing, but also the trans community as a whole and how we can help them,” she said.
Parents who have questions about transgender students and policy at Troy City Schools should contact the board of education at (937) 332-6700.
Reach Allison C. Gallagher at [email protected] or on Twitter @Troydailynews.