District 211 Forum Addresses Gender Identity

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 5, 2016 | Go to article overview

District 211 Forum Addresses Gender Identity


Byline: Eric Peterson epeterson@dailyherald.com

A pair of Chicago-based experts told a gathering of parents and other community members from Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 Thursday that allowing children who believe they're transgender to self-identify is the best and safest course for these kids' developing identities and self-esteem.

Jennifer Leininger, program manager for the Gender and Sex Development Program at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, and David Fischer, senior analyst for the Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, spoke before an audience of about 50 people at the first of five scheduled community education sessions in District 211 on the issue of gender identity and gender development.

This first topic in what is expected to be a continuing series on student wellness issues was chosen because of the recent controversy over the district's agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to allow a transgender student limited access to a girls locker room as long as a privacy stall there is always used.

Though one audience question sought Thursday night's speakers' opinion about that policy, the speakers said the purpose of the session was not to debate any particular policy but to explain the roots and diversity of gender identity.

But Vicki Wilson of Palatine, co-founder of the group District 211 Parents for Privacy that opposed the locker room agreement, argued afterward that the session did not include differing points of view -- even ones research-based.

She pointed to a letter from Michelle A. Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, who wrote in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association that up to 98 percent of boys and up to 88 percent of girls who identify as the opposite gender as young children develop a gender identity matching their biological sex by the time they pass through puberty.

Wilson said she saw this as reason not to encourage children to pursue an irreversible medical transition.

But Leininger and Fischer said a transgender identity is not a pathological condition that can be diagnosed by another, but a normative variation of human diversity.

"I do work with psychiatrists and psychologists who help form this conversation," Leininger said.

She added that a study by The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, determined that between 0.5 and 1.5 percent of the population may fall under some subcategory of transgender identity, but that it was difficult to be precise because of many members' reticence. …

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