Our Editorial Board did not reach a consensus recommendation on how Malvern should deal with transgender students.
What we did easily agree on, however, is that conversation must begin.
We need to start dialogue about this dilemma now – before it has a name, a face, and a life paused in the balance between isolation and acceptance.
MAJORITY: Caritas and unitas transcend gender
The question of how we will treat a transgender member of our community is now ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’
Nick came to Malvern freshman year. He plays football in the Fall, loves to do the Musical in the Spring, and participates in robotics in the winter.
The decision wasn’t easy. It wasn’t impulsive and it wasn’t a stage.
Nick announced during his junior year that he now identifies as a female.
She wants to go by Nina, and be referred to with the correct gender pronouns.
What should Malvern do? After all, Malvern is an all-boys Catholic school.
When we have the brotherhood ceremony and every student signs the book, we accept them into the brotherhood. That acceptance and investment in the students is not contingent on their intelligence, athletic ability, race, or socioeconomic status. The same should apply for gender.
Controversy around transgender people has become national news. With Caitlin Jenner’s change and acceptance of the ESPN ESPY Courage Award, it went viral. Her primetime ABC special with Diane Sawyer drew 16.9 million viewers.
President Obama became the first president to even use the word “transgender” during his 2016 State of the Union.
The conversation is local as well as national. This past month, Conestoga’s student-run newspaper, The Spoke, published an article on the issues faced by three transgender Conestoga students, including peer acceptance and bathroom guidelines.
Even within the Inter-Ac, a student at Agnes Irwin, an all-girls school, now identifies as male, forcing them to create a transgender policy.
Malvern isn’t just a school – it’s a community.
We develop our friends, support systems, and lives in Malvern.
Nina is still the same person that we sat next to in class a day earlier – nothing has changed. She is still friends with the same people. She still participates in the same activities.
If Nina wants to stay, and she thinks it is what is best for her, we should let her stay. Asking her to leave would strip her of her community of people who care to help her through the transition.
The Augustinian values of veritas, unitas, and caritas are more important and intrinsic to Malvern than a rigid “all-boys” policy.
Malvern’s identity as an all boys’ school would not change just because we lovingly accepted one student who is transgender. If you look so strictly at the definition of Malvern as an all-boys school you are forgetting that the number one priority of this issue is the health and wellbeing of Nina.Our faith teaches us love and acceptance, and we need to put it into practice.
If Malvern forced her to leave, she would have to start her life over again at a new school, where she will have to deal with a community that may not have the same love and respect for her.
The feeling of brotherhood does not occur overnight. It takes time to develop trust and love for 119 other boys. But once that feeling is there, students would be willing to fight for their peers.
DISSENT: Potential transgender students should not compromise Malvern’s values
If a student at Malvern decides to change their gender, Malvern’s core values should not change.
High school is a time for students to increase their own individuality and work to find themselves. For some students, this process could potentially manifest itself into a gender change.
The issue of a student changing their gender identity from male to female while at Malvern is a pressing and inevitable one.
We should not forget our Augustinian values of veritas, unitas, and caritas. Being a Catholic school, we would still— and have the responsibility to— love any student at Malvern who comes out as transgender.
We should care for a transgender student and she should still be a part of the community. However, we need to stay true to the mission of the school as a single-sex institution.
As the dissent side of this editorial, we would still accept a new gender and name as well as treat a Malvern student changing genders as a female.
Part of that acceptance, is treating a Malvern student who comes out as a transgender girl the exact same as we treat someone who was born a girl and still identifies that as a girl.
Part of Malvern’s core values is that we are intrinsically an all-male school. If we have a female student attend, we are either a coeducational school or making a special exception.
In all likelihood, Malvern will not become a co-ed school any time soon. Making an exception for a single student is not right either if it alters the purpose of our school.
If a student changes their gender identification, the community should accept her. However, we should also strongly encourage her that if she truly felt that way, then she should go to an all girls or co-ed school.
If Malvern were to make an exception and let her stay, we would be giving a special privilege to someone solely because they are transgender. Since we are not treating this person like a non-transgender girl, we are undermining her new self image.
Being the only female student at an all-male school could potentially be a problematic situation for both the transgender student and male students socially, educationally, and emotionally. The best way to avoid problems is to keep Malvern a truly single-sex school.
The most important thing is that we remember our Augustinian values. We need to support a potential transgender student. The community should keep in contact with her if she changes schools— the brotherhood can transcend the physical boundaries of the campus.