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An open letter to the Volusia County School Board:

I am appalled at the quotes I read in The West Volusia Beacon concerning LGBTQ+ Health Awareness Week. I appreciate that the School Board attempted to be sensitive to those who are, and those who love, those who identify as LGBTQ+, but the residents’ comments were disturbing. 

The residents displayed complete misunderstanding during the public comments, saying, for example, that by supporting health awareness for students who fall outside the binary gender norm, we are not providing “healthy and stable help to these kids, even with gender dysphoria, we in turn, embrace it as normal and give them hormone blockers and ultimately genitalia mutilation.”

Gender-confirmation surgery is not viewed in the community as “genital mutilation,” and stating it this way publicly puts that elective surgery in a category with female genital mutilation, which is practiced in children and decidedly not voluntary. 

Indeed, whether to undergo gender-confirmation surgery is an individual’s decision, and, quite frankly, no one else’s business. 

The comment about discomfort with, say “masturbation,” creates an uncomfortable analogy that reduces the individual’s total identity to how one identifies sexually, which is only one aspect of every single person’s total identity.

The reaction of state Rep. Randy Fine of Brevard County illustrates this misunderstanding. Fine reducing the discussion about the new guidelines in that county to the notion that “a boy” would go into a “girl’s” bathroom demonstrates the profound lack of understanding of transgender identity, and implies that a student would go through the process of transitioning simply to gain access to another gender’s bathroom. 

Not only does this strain credulity, but also implies a predator status that I find extremely distasteful.

I am a recently retired gender-studies professor (and a former Dade County K-12 educator) who moved to this area in 2019. 

I believe the public needs to be educated, as implied in the article. The comment about having a lot of “friends” is reminiscent of America a century ago.

There were comments that showed support for the LGBTQ+ community, and that means we are moving in the right direction. However, we need to confront the fear that support for student health is in some way an agenda or recruitment tool. 

I always told my classes that even though I told my own children to wear a seat belt, that didn’t mean I was condoning them speeding when they drove.

I applaud the resolution, and encourage the education community to revisit this important measure. If I may suggest one approach, book groups have proved to me to be an effective way to discuss a topic in a nonthreatening, nonconfrontational way.

But that is only one approach. I wish my local School Board luck as they navigate their way through this sensitive topic and hope that we come to a time when we support every student, regardless of identity.

Kathleen Butterly Nigro, Ph.D. (She/Her/Hers)

Daytona Beach

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