Many of us, most of us likely, have only gradually begun to understand the complexity, the nuance, the bedrock power of gender fluidity. Likely a good many of us have just decided to ignore the issue or retreated into retro denial mode certain that if rigid gender definitions were good enough in the 1970s why go there now.
But like every moment on the civil rights/human rights arc eventually, somehow, someday these fascinating and mind-altering issues come straight into our lives via our kids’ school, a powerful movie, a brave acquaintance who comes out demanding fair recognition of their truth.
In our Landmark corner of the world, the lesson of a youngster strong enough, true enough to themselves to accept being transgendered resulted in a years’ long lesson in compassion and, ultimately, in the law.
Komarek School District 94 has been ordered to pay this local boy and his family $158,000 in combined emotional distress and legal costs for requiring the boy, who is not being named by the Landmark, to use only an adult male restroom while at school.
The ruling came in a case heard by the Illinois Human Rights Commission and brought by the family with the support of its lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union.
This story goes back years, to another school superintendent and school board, which chose to isolate the boy rather than simply permitting the use of restroom which matched his chosen identity.
The school district now points out that its insurance will cover the full fines assessed to it. Much more critical is the response of Brian Ganan, who became superintendent in 2015. He quickly moved to lift the ban on restroom use. Last week he told the Landmark, “I’m happy that it’s over with. I’m very comfortable with where we are in the situation with the student as long as the student is comfortable. We wanted the student to feel safe and at home here.”
Translate it. Every person wants to be known. Not complicated. Not up to us to define that person. That seems to be the lesson that our Komarek leaders have internalized. Good for them. Good for this boy. Good for his family to stick up for him. Good for our state to be so clear in its ruling. Good for all of us for trying to learn the same lesson of love and inclusion.