Ted Cruz's boys showering with girls claim False, but transgender student rights are unsettled

Ted Cruz, the Texas senator and Republican bidding for president, drew a False for his claim about boys and girls showering together. Still, battles continue over transgender rights (Associated Press photo).
Ted Cruz, the Texas senator and Republican bidding for president, drew a False for his claim about boys and girls showering together. Still, battles continue over transgender rights (Associated Press photo).

We found False a Ted Cruz claim that the federal government has been trying to force schools to let boys shower with little girls.

Efforts by the Department of Justice on President Barack Obama’s watch to open all school facilities, including gym locker rooms, to transgender students didn't add up to the government trying to force schools to let boys shower with little girls.

For starters, we wrote, a transgender girl is not a boy and vice versa in that a transgender is a person whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. If someone born a boy identifies as a girl, then they’re a transgender girl--and the opposite.

Still, it bears mention that there’s not universal agreement on this point and that conservative advocates have battled the Obama administration over whether federal law requires schools to grant transgender students unrestricted access to school facilities.

After that fact check posted, we asked the American Psychiatric Association if we’d erred in stating a transgender girl is not a boy and vice versa. New York psychiatrist Jack Drescher told us by phone our declaration reflects the professional consensus of medical experts.

Then again, Drescher, who served on the association’s work group that drafted a 2013 change of the previously accepted diagnosis of gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria, allowed that Americans in general haven’t necessarily embraced the consensus or policy implications. "For some people," Drescher said, "your gender is your chromosomes or your anatomy. It’s become a cultural issue in a way." He added: "I don’t think the professional communities have thought it out fully, the implications. A lot of thoughtful parents are scared and worried."

Drescher and Dustin Siggins, Washington, D.C., correspondent for LifeSiteNews.com, each mentioned psychiatrist Paul McHugh, formerly at Johns Hopkins University, as emblematic of a minority school of thought. In a June 2014 Wall Street Journal commentary, McHugh said it’s no favor when policy makers and "the media" treat gender confusions as a right needing defending rather than as a mental disorder meriting understanding. "At the heart of the problem," McHugh concluded, "is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. ‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa," he said. "Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder."

The Justice Department has lately maintained that a 1972 law barring sex discrimination in federally supported public schools and universities similarly applies to transgender students. This interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was hinted at in an April 2014 notice, "Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence," issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that included the question and answer below plus a footnote stating that while the document "focuses on sexual violence, the legal principles apply to other forms of sexual harassment." Most directly, the notice said: "Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity."

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By email, Siggins suggested our fact check left out conservative arguments and that there have  been rulings opposite of what the federal government has been saying--meaning the administration’s interpretation isn’t settled law.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal group that says it advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, tells school districts considering policy changes that "no federal law requires public schools to open sex-specific restrooms, showers and changing area to opposite-sex students."

In one conflict, Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia boy who was born a girl, filed suit after he was no longer permitted to use boys’ restrooms at his high school by the Gloucester County school board.

This year, U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar denied Grimm’s Title IX claims, saying that federal law allows schools to separate restrooms based on sex and that "society demands that male and female restrooms be separate because of privacy concerns."

"Not only is bodily privacy a constitutional right," Doumar held, "the need for privacy is even more pronounced in the state educational system. The students are almost all minors, and public school education is a protective environment. Furthermore, the School Board is tasked with providing safe and appropriate facilities for these students," the judge wrote, according to a  Sept. 18, 2015 news story in the Newport News Daily Press. His holding is under appeal.

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