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Seattle-area districts say they're ready for transgender policy

A drawing by a child in Professor Kristina Olson's study. Olson has found that transgender and non-trans girls have an equally deep sense of their gender identity.
Courtesy of Marlo Mack
A drawing by a trans girl. The Obama Administration has told educators to allow trans students access to use the facilities of their choosing.

When Marlo Mack heard the White House's guidance on transgendered students, she almost couldn’t believe it. “I’m kind of in shock, elated shock,” she said.

Mack is the mother of an 8-year-old who identifies as a girl. She’s not using her real name to protect the privacy of her daughter.

When Do Kids Know They’re Transgender? Younger Than You'd Think

“A year ago, no one really noticed that my daughter was in the room,” Mack said.

Now there’s the beginning of a national policy that says how transgendered children’s needs should be met at school. School districts in the Seattle area say they are ready for the federal policy on transgender students.

Seattle and Lake Washington say they already comply with most or all of the recommendations, which were outlined this morning in a letter to educators from the Obama Administration.

The policysays:

A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity. A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. A school may, however, make individual-user options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy.

Gov. Jay Inslee applauded the Obama Administration’s statement, saying Washington state's policy already agrees with the federal guidance. 

But the Family Policy Institute of Washington, which stresses parental rights and religious freedom, called these proceedings “lawless.”

“The decree from today is that you have to allow access to whatever facility they want based on their expression or their identity,” executive director Joseph Backholm said in a telephone interview. “That of course comes into conflict with the right to privacy that every other student has at that school.”

Some schools have only communal facilities available to students. The Seattle Schools District said its policy is to allow any student to use the private facilities in the school nurse’s office if they are uncomfortable.

“That seems appropriate,” Backholm said. “I don’t know why anyone would object to that.”

Mack says people who are transgender don’t want to make other people uncomfortable. She said her daughter understands it is risky to allow her private parts to be seen.

“If you’re concerned about your daughter being in the rest room with mine, or in the locker room with mine, it’s very unlikely that your daughter is ever going to know.”

Mack also said she expects policy to evolve from this starting point. 

“My mind is racing to catch up to the new reality,” she said.