Well it happened.
The meeting was in a crowded room with five other adults, so I was already feeling overwhelmed when I walked in. There was a brief introduction where I was introduced to everyone in the room… and promptly lost all their names. I was seated beside a vice principal and then there was the head of special education and Jeremy’s teacher (who I already knew) and another vice principal and someone else who took copious notes. I can’t remember her title at all.
I was immediately informed by the first VP that everyone in the meeting was there to support and help Jeremy and that the best way to do so was to make all the decisions first and then tell “him” what we’d decided. I argued vehemently that zie should be involved in the decision making and was overruled.
My first concern was the issue that had been brought up on Friday regarding distractions. Everyone agreed that a stress ball would be fine for Jeremy to use and that even a spinning ring would work. Apparently the issue with having a bag on the floor was that a teacher tripped on a bag last year and fell, which meant she was off work for quite a while. However, they didn’t tell Jeremy this, choosing to detail how students might be carrying weapons or dealing drugs instead. Which at least explains why zie started ranting about how the school should have metal detectors.
This is when I lost it and flipped a proverbial table. They wanted to know if I thought having zir bag of electronics on a nearby table, visible but out of reach, would be an acceptable option. I said that would be best directed to Jeremy and got told no, the adults needed to make these decisions; I needed to decide for “him”. I said that Jeremy was sitting directly outside the meeting room and it would take me maybe 20 seconds, if that, to go ask zir. They didn’t feel that was appropriate. I, once again, explained that it didn’t matter what I thought was a valid option, this plan was being put in place to make Jeremy feel more safe. If zie didn’t think it would work then it wasn’t going to be a help and we’d need to think of something else.
That was when the phone rang and the first VP needed to take a call.
I stood up. “While she’s busy, I’m going to quickly ask Jeremy if this will work for zir.”
I reached for the door just in time to hear someone bark, “No! Michelle, you need to sit back down right now.”
Excuse me? I spun around, swept the room with one glance then said, “No” before walking out. Jeremy was standing talking to an adult. I’d caught zir just as zie was leaving for zir student ID photo. Zie said the bag being visible was fine. I walked back in and said so to the group.
Then came gender. Kind of. I brought it up three times only to be redirected to gadgets, a topic I figured we’d already beaten to death. Nothing new was being discussed, everyone was simply rehashing how obsessive Jeremy was with them and how zie perseverates on them and won’t stop talking or fidgeting with them. Except there wasn’t any resolution to their issues, it was venting and nothing else. I was getting overwhelmed by the negativity. Finally I dragged them onto the gender topic and… nothing.
This is what it says on the school board website…
According to the people at the meeting, those three pronouns are the only ones they can use in the school. Jeremy can’t be addressed as zie/zir because “they” is the only pronoun listed other than he or she. But “he” could go by “she” if “he” wanted; totally ignoring the whole “this list is illustrative but not exhaustive” sentence.
When I tried to bring up other information in the guidelines, I got informed by the second VP that she’d help design the pamphlet and was well aware of what it meant and what they were required to do by law. That it would get too confusing if they had to address every trans student in the whole school by their preferred pronouns, making it sound like there were at least five in each class and they all wanted different pronouns. She hastily assured me this school is the most welcoming school in the area and she knew this as a member of the LGBTQ community. I don’t have a rainbow card to pull but I do have another child, who attended a different high school. Her school had rainbow “positive space” signs everywhere plus Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) notices about every 10 feet down each hallway. My coworker Brian had similar stories about his former high school. In contrast, this is the only notice either Jeremy or I have seen at zir school…
It took us a while to find it, that one lonely little 8.5 by 11 inch sheet on a noticeboard halfway down a hallway. We’d been looking for something bigger, with an actual pride flag. Last year it took us half a year to find the GSA, only to discover no one attends. Jeremy hasn’t asked to join this year. I tried to mention Emma’s school and got cut off and informed the topic had changed.
And so it continued with me referring to Jeremy as zie and zir while everyone else said he and him. At one point the second VP drew boxes on her paper and nudged the lady beside her with a smile, drawing her attention to the paper. My heart sank. Were they really gossiping about myself or my child during the meeting? But no. She’d drawn a box around Jeremy’s name and another box around the word “they” then pointed to both. She was simply reminding the other woman about pronouns. That was one of the only bright spots of the meeting.
They have a work placement set up for Jeremy at the local board office; I believe emptying wastebaskets and taking out recycling. No one in the meeting felt zie’d be there for long. They don’t have any classes available outside the small class setting right now, so Jeremy can’t take any classes that might help with job skills. And there’s no math this semester; instead zir teacher is going to teach simple machines. Her reason? Because she’d been thinking of zir. She cut out zir favourite subject, the one zie argued and pleaded to take more of, in order to teach the class about pulleys and levers. I’m not arguing about the curruculum, simple machines sound very interesting. What irritates me is the claim that she did it for Jeremy. I assured zir we’d work on math at home. If anyone’s got any amazing math websites, please feel free to share them. Goodness knows this is not a subject I can teach.
Two people expressed concern that Jeremy’s gender identity would be a “distraction” because “he” will keep arguing with them when they use the wrong pronoun. I asked if zie’d argued with them over being called “he” before and got told no. They decided zie could keep a tally of their mistakes and bring them up at the end of the class so it wouldn’t be a distraction. They didn’t want “him” bringing it up in the middle of class because an explanation would be too long.
“You don’t need to explain anything,” I pointed out. “All you need to do is say I’m sorry.”
“That would take too long and would be distracting,” she insisted.
“Simply saying I’m sorry would be a distraction?” I asked, in a tone I’ve used on my own kids countless times. Apparently grown adults squirm at that tone too.
“Yes,” she replied. I simply gave her the look.
They wanted to wrap the meeting up right then without bringing Jeremy in because nothing got really decided and maybe we should schedule…
“Jeremy’s been sitting outside waiting this whole time,” I pointed out. “Zie was told fifteen minutes ago that zie’d be allowed inside in five minutes. Plus I had this day off already but I cannot guarantee I’ll have the next day off. Zie needs to come in and hear what’s been discussed.”
They let zir in.
So that’s it. Jeremy’s still being addressed as both he and him while they insist zie can only be referred to as they. The one subject that Jeremy enjoyed will not be back until after Christmas. There are no classes aimed at helping zir find a job zie’d enjoy and they’ve already figured zie’ll tank zir placement. They won’t allow zir a placement outside the school board because zie’s not a good ambassador. They don’t discuss hair colour or nail length at all with Jeremy but when they do, it’s out of a place of genuine concern for “his” wellbeing. They’ve never discussed boys and girls being opposites in the class but, if they did, it would have been an example given by other students and they couldn’t correct them because some of the students are not that bright and it would crush them to have their example corrected. Which isn’t what happened at all but…
I now have a better understanding of Jeremy’s anger issues. And, seriously, if they’re expecting zir to do a tally for every time they misgender zir, I’m going to need to buy zir a bigger backpack and one hell of a large notebook.