Mario Guerrero is president of Stonewall Democrats of Greater Sacramento. Its mission is to advance equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
EDITOR’S NOTE: School Board candidate Megan Allen was contacted about the criticisms from the Stonewall Democrats. Her response follows after the below essay. Also running for the Natomas Unified Board of Education is Noel Mora.
At an Oct. 12 public candidate forum, a candidate for Natomas Unified School District, Megan Allen, surprised many with her response to a high school student’s written question on gender neutral restrooms on school campuses.
The question was “Are you in support of incorporating gender neutral restrooms, and do you have a plan to help create gender neutral restrooms across the district?”
To this, Ms. Allen responded, “I am fine with one gender neutral restroom on campus, but I do not want them across campus, because
there are lots of reports that’s how girls get raped.”
She added she has concerns for the safety of her own school-age son and daughter, and that gender neutral restrooms make students feel awkward.
I was appalled when I found out about Allen’s remark. As an out gay man, a Latino, and the President of an LGBT organization, the Stonewall Democrats of Greater Sacramento, I have seen and heard a lot of offensive things. Allen’s juxtaposition of (1) gender neutral restrooms on a high school campus and (2) girls getting raped is extremely problematic for me.
This is exactly the kind of groundless rhetoric that has often been used to attack transgender people and their access to basic resources. Stonewall Democrats emphatically denounces Allen’s use of this transphobic myth. Her remarks are unbecoming of a candidate for public office – especially someone running for a seat on a school board.
Transgender people are often portrayed by transphobic persons as unstable, predatory, and dangerous. Is Allen herself transphobic? We do not know. What we do know is that she has tainted public discourse, against the interests of public school students, by delivering these remarks.
On behalf of my organization, we call on Allen to retract her statement and commit to taking LGBT cultural competency training. We also ask her to issue a clear answer in response to the question, Does she support the transgender youth on our public school campuses who are seeking justifiable accommodations? Yes or no?
As it stands, Allen’s comment is utterly baseless in fact and ignores California law. Under California law, school students are permitted to use whichever restroom they believe best corresponds to their gender identity.
Moreover, each school must make all its single-capacity restrooms gender neutral. If a school has, say, 10 single-capacity restrooms, and that school made only one of them gender neutral, it would be violating state law.
These basic accommodations are especially helpful for the students who identify as nonbinary, and for those who are questioning their gender. Symbolically, gender neutral restrooms also reassure transgender youth
that the school administration regards them in an inclusive manner.
LGBT youth are often the victims of stigma, harassment, bullying and violence, based on their sexual/gender identities, on school campuses. They are not the perpetrators of violence against others, nor are policies designed to serve their basic human rights accidentally creating opportunities for others to commit sexual assaults against others.
Of course, we uphold the principle that girls and women ought to be free from sexual assault and rape, but we reject the idea that restricting transgender accommodations on school campuses does anything to advance that important objective.
I will also note that my group previously endorsed Ms. Allen’s opponent in the Natomas School Board race, Noel Mora.
Mora attended the Oct. 12 public forum in person. He answers the student’s gender neutral restroom question saying, “We must support transgender students by making sure there are gender neutral restrooms at our schools. We have to avoid false and harmful myths about this issue, which of course are unacceptable. It is on us to build a culture of equity and inclusion that will truly keep students safe.”
Stonewall Democrats of Greater Sacramento gave Allen the o
pportunity to reply to us directly, but she did not take advantage of our invitation before we submitted this piece, but we welcome her response.
Megan Allen provided this statement responding to criticisms of her forum comments:
“I’m sensitive to the concerns that have been expressed [about my comments], but my comments are specifically about the safety of young women and how facilities can be exploited, by anyone, in a manner that does not promote safety. As a mother of two school-aged children, it’s very important for this dialog to occur publicly and in a sincere and apolitical manner. I’m always willing to have this conversation and look forward to serving all Natomas students as a Board Member.”