IV Words supports position of Supt. Rupak Gandhi, Fargo School Board on discriminatory N.D. laws.

This post was originally published as a letter to the editor on inforum.com, the online presence of The Forum, Fargo, N.D., on May 30, 2023 under the headline “Kudos to Supt. Gandhi and Fargo School Board members.” For background on this and other new anti-trans bills/laws in North Dakota, please follow the links at the bottom.

I applaud Dr. Rupak Gandhi’s position and statement to the Fargo School Board regarding the anti-transgender bill passed by the North Dakota Legislature and signed into law by the governor.

As The Forum has reported, the new law makes it illegal for school officials to adopt policies that affirm students’ preferred gender pronouns and “…prohibits transgender K-12 students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity.”

Gandhi told the school board that “…the district will prioritize keeping students safe over obeying a new North Dakota state law that creates a number of restrictions and policies related to transgender students.”

He said, “My responsibility is to our students and our educators and there will be times where we have to make decisions that may not be interpreted in accordance with the spirit of state law.”

That’s a courageous, and in my judgement, morally correct position. Bravo, Dr. Gandhi. Kudos Fargo School Board members. Stand firm.

A transgender person wearing a rainbow shirt that matches the swatch of paints behind them.
Transgender people deserve acceptance, decency and respect, like anyone else. N.D.’s discriminatory laws reveal homophobia and a drive for holier-than-thou control. Photo by Isi Parente via unsplash.com.

Proponents of this inhumane and quite likely unconstitutional law, and similar bills and laws around the country, like to talk about “protecting our children.” But make no mistake – these overreaching attacks on our family members, friends and neighbors have absolutely nothing to do with protecting anyone, but everything to do with riling up the GOP-MAGA base ahead of the 2024 election. To that main dish add the ever-present homophobia and insatiable pursuit of control on the side.

“Live and let live”? “Love thy neighbor”? “Do unto others”? Or even, simply, “Be kind”?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Seriously, if proponents of this kind of legislation were truly interested in protecting children, they’d have listened to the physicians and medical organizations that actually tend to kids’ physical, mental and emotional health. In March, “…the nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ people, and transgender children in particular” (National Public Radio).

Meanwhile, we are in the midst of a mental health crisis in this country, especially among adolescents, and these laws will only exacerbate the problem among LGBTQ+ individuals and peers who support them.

As for those who purportedly fear the Fargo stance will teach kids it’s OK to disobey the law, I can only say this:

In a democracy, two of the most important lessons parents and educators can teach kids are, first, that it’s important – critical even – to protest unjust laws, and to ignore or disobey them if necessary, and second, that just because the majority of an elected body approves of something, that doesn’t make it right.

Besides, what these vile laws actually convey is that if someone identifies themselves in a way that does not align with one’s personal opinions or the prevailing norms in a society, if what they believe or how they present themselves varies from the majority’s preferences, in short, if they are different, then they should be marginalized and legislated out of existence, or at least out of view.

That’s an infinitely more perilous message.

More Reading

Human Rights Campaign Condemns North Dakota House for Legalizing Misgendering of LGBTQ+ People in Workplaces and Schools, Calls on Gov. Burgum to Veto Disgraceful Legislation

Human Rights Campaign: “Instead of Helping North Dakotans to ‘Find the Good Life,’ Governor Burgum Decided to Sign Away the Ability for Transgender People to Safely and Openly Exist”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signs bill to restrict transgender K-12 students’ pronouns, bathroom access

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