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The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.

2/18/10

BATHROOM RIGHTS OF TRANSGENDER STUDENTS AN ISSUE

Bangor Daily News - New guidelines under consideration by the Maine Human Rights Commission designed to clarify the rights of transgender students in Maine has sparked a passionate debate over what some feel are impractical or abhorrent new requirements for public schools.

The commission's proposed guidelines, which are scheduled for further consideration on March 1, state that transgender students are guaranteed access to public school bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams based on whatever gender they consider themselves to be. That means a boy who identifies himself as a girl is by law allowed to use girls bathrooms, locker rooms and participate on girls sports teams, or vice versa. Being "transgender" means having a gender identity that is opposite a person's biologically assigned sex at birth.

For some, including the Christian Civic League of Maine, the commission's guidelines are "the latest outrage by radical homosexual activists" which constitute "an impossible absurdity," according to a press release.

Paul Vestal, chairman of the Maine Human Rights Commission, told the Bangor Daily News that there is nothing new about the requirements for public schools and that the commission's guidelines do nothing more than clarify a law that has been on the books for five years.. . .

Representatives from several gay and lesbian rights groups participated in a Dec. 15 workshop with the commission on the guidelines. One of them was Peter Rees of the Downeast Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network based in Ellsworth. Rees said people who oppose rights for transgender students - such as allowing them to use locker rooms with people who are biologically of the opposite sex - fear something "that just isn't borne out in reality."

"What do they think is going to happen?" asked Rees. "That boy who is identifying as a girl is not going to be displaying herself in a girls' locker room. She's going to be acting as much like a girl as possible and being very modest."

The Maine School Management Association is another organization that has raised concerns about the guidelines, though on different grounds than the Christian Civic League. Bruce Smith, an attorney who represents MSMA, said he believes the commission's proposed guidelines go beyond what is intended in the Maine Human Rights Act. . .

Smith said the MSMA's chief concern is the safety of transgender students who use opposite-sex bathrooms or locker rooms and the fairness of biological males competing against biological females. He contended that his group and others were not invited into the discussion until it was too late to make a difference.

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