In the 2017/2018 school year, a biological female student in a Kenosha high school began identifying as a boy. She wanted to use the boys’ restrooms, locker rooms, etc. Kenosha Unified School District’s policy then was that students used the restroom and locker room facilities that corresponded to their biological sex. This student sued the School District. Eventually, in 2020 the District decided to settle the matter out of court and agreed to 2 actions: 1) pay the girl and her attorneys $800,000 and 2) change the District’s policy so that students can use the restrooms, locker rooms, etc., of the gender they “identify” with.
Kenosha joined many school districts around the state with this SOGI (Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity) policy. A number of local municipalities in Wisconsin have also passed SOGI ordinances related to housing, employment, and public accommodations.
These ordinances claim to protect people of different gender identities from discrimination. But what do they say? And what are your chances of accidentally breaking one?
What Are SOGI Ordinances?
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Ordinances redefine terms such as “sex” or “gender” to cater to the transgender, gender-fluid, and “queer” communities. Their goal is to ensure that people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community can be surrounded by comforting and safe environments.
So far, so good – right?
The problem starts with the way these principles are enforced. Ideals such as tolerance and acceptance are hard to define and almost impossible to translate into legislation. As a result, many of these regulations grant special privileges and rights and perceive discrimination behind reasonable, everyday actions.
Enforcing Inclusion: How SOGI Ordinances Are Playing Out in Kenosha
The first SOGI rules in Kenosha came from its School Board. In 2020, the Kenosha School District sought to ensure that students identified as “transgender” had equal access to single-sex spaces, such as restrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams–based not on their biological sex, but on the gender they “identify” with.
By that time, many school districts around Kenosha had already begun addressing this issue. One solution a number of districts have arrived at is to make single-occupancy restrooms available to all students and increased funding for non-physical sports teams.
However, SOGI ordinances went a step further. First, they enshrined the right of each student to request, via a simple letter, to be treated as a member of the opposite gender without any parental involvement.
Second, once a student identified as a specific gender, it became mandatory to automatically treat them as belonging to that gender, with no exceptions. This includes:
- Biologically-male students showering with female classmates
- Biologically-female students risking severe injuries as part of male wrestling team
- Disciplinary procedures for students who express reticence or discomfort at any of these circumstances.
What Can You Do About SOGI Policies/Ordinances?
The SOGI policies enacted in Kenosha School District are a classic example of what happens when authorities try to reshape society in a vacuum. The best way to ensure everyone’s rights are respected without imposing beliefs or harming the privacy of others is to place these decisions in the hands of those directly affected by them.
Currently, the City of Kenosha and Kenosha County do not have SOGI ordinances. But that doesn’t mean they have not considered them or that they will not do so in the future.
The upcoming local elections on April 5th, for example, provide a suitable medium to take back this power. By making your voice heard in the County Board, City Council and School Board, you can bring back sanity to these top-down ordinances.
Image Credit: Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash