Gender identity proposal draws big crowd

Posted at 6:39 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 07:35:02-04

At age 2, Jennifer Robinson's son transitioned to become Gracie.

"As soon as she was able to start kind of telling us her preferences, what she wanted to be called and what she wanted to play with, how she wanted to dress, it's always been female," Robinson explained.

Gracie will start kindergarten in the fall and her parents are concerned the school won't know how to appropriately support their daughter's or any other transgender's choice.

"Not being able to play on the proper sports team with their gender that they identify with or being forced to use facilities that they outwardly don't belong in," she said.

Robinson spoke to the Board of Education Tuesday about her fears, with statistics showing many who identify as LGBTQ are at a greater risk for mental health issues, substance abuse and bullying.

She says the guidelines, which will allow students to choose their own gender identity and to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond, will help her daughter fit in. And, she told Fox 47 News, she expects the guidelines will help decrease those negative experiences.

"To force her to use the single stall bathroom would set her apart and would put her in a position where she'd have to answer questions why she's always having to go to this other bathroom," Robinson said.

But, former teacher Bonnie White doesn't like the thought of allowing students to choose their identity at an early age.

"So you're in a class and the student says well today I feel like so and so. The teacher's gonna have to bow down to that? Who sets the standards and the perimeter?" White asked. "I think it's inconsistency and it's causing deception all the way around."

Other opponents worry sexual predators will take advantage of the rules.

"As a person who myself has been sexually abused, I believe that opens up a door that we can't close," Brenda Battle Jordan of the Westwood Heights School Board said.

The Michigan Coaltion to End Domestic & Sexual Violence disagrees with her.

The Associate Director told Fox 47 News studies form the CDC and World Health Organization show making a more inclusive space available actually decreases the risk for violence.

Three Republican lawmakers spoke to the Board about how they're planning to fight the proposal in the legislature.

A few opponents echoed the push back. Two people threatened the Board via the ballot box, saying they'll target Board members Austin and Strauss.

The public comments section on the Board's website closes Wednesday night. We're expecting a decision as early as August.

We'll keep tracking this story for you.