Accepting that I was born a girl presented no stress or anxiety as best I can recall.

Even though I grew up hearing things like, “you can’t do that because you are a girl,” or “stop sitting like a truck driver,” it never occurred to me to question the concept that I was a female.

As a parent, I never thought twice about telling my son he was a boy and consequently I purchased “boy toys” for him. Which he enjoyed immensely. I did put him in a pink sleeper once, but his father and my dad were quick to let me know that outfit had to go.

When I brought my daughter home from the hospital, we put her in a big round crib in her pink and purple room. When she got old enough to be moved upstairs, her walls were decorated with giant Disney Princesses.

Neither of them has ever indicated I made a mistake by “labeling” them boy and girl.

Children are not born knowing what it means to be a boy or a girl. This concept is taught to them by their parents, siblings and extended family. Everyone just assumes that the determination of gender is acknowledged at birth, based on observing the baby’s external organs. For most of us, it was a simple acceptance.

Gender identity is something we all have. Most of us do not spend a moment thinking about it, because we see ourselves as the world sees us.

But not all children are comfortable being the gender they are born. This is a new concept for some of us and with it come all kinds of questions and insecurities.

For children who are experiencing gender identity issues, nothing is simple. They are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. And they are at greater risk for substance abuse and homelessness when they are rejected by their families. They are also at higher risk for suicide.

Often, they are attacked verbally and physically, simply for existing.

Knowing those facts makes the recent actions of a Virginia teacher reprehensible.

Byron Cross, a physical education teacher was suspended after he continually refused to address a student by their chosen pronoun.

Like some others who use God’s name to justify their actions, Mr. Cross chose religion as his defense for his actions.

In a statement to the school board, Cross said he “will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion, it’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child and it’s sinning against our God.”

There are so many things wrong with that statement, I do not have enough space to address it all. But here goes.

No one asked Mr. Cross to raise this child and his affirmation is irrelevant. He is not a doctor performing any kind of surgery and does not have the qualifications to determine gender affirmation.

I would be curious to know what religion he practices.

If he thinks it is okay to embarrass a child that is already clearly dealing with issues beyond his pay grade, then I am glad I do not go to his church. If his real goal is to serve God, then should not there be more love and compassion toward a child who is struggling with these insecurities?

My next question would be about who put him in charge of moral policing at the school. I thought his job was to teach physical education.

Besides, I think we still have separation of church and state in this country.

Apparently, his employer felt he had overstepped his boundaries as the school board voted to put him on leave and suspended him. It turns out the school has a policy that stipulates educators should refer to students by the pronouns that align with their gender identity.

Mr. Cross presumably signed and acknowledged those policies when he accepted the job but chose to put his need to bully a child ahead of his educational duties.

At the meeting, Cross told board members he was “speaking out of love for those who suffer with gender dysphoria.” I am positive if we asked the child involved if they felt loved by his actions, the answer would be a resounding no.

Cross’ attorney is crying violation of free speech and has filed a lawsuit of course.

But what about the child’s right of expectation to be protected at a school that has a clear policy prohibiting the kind of treatment they received?

I get that people do not understand the issue and we are often wary of things beyond our comprehension.

But this was a child.

And teachers have a duty of care. This teacher violated that duty, and he needs to go.

Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at anitamcgill99@gmail.com.

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