I’ve written about rule internalization in the past. It’s when people care more about a rule itself than the reason for the rule. It’s a good mark of someone who isn’t doing much thinking.
I’ve also written about a lot of discrimination. I’ll spare myself the tediousness of linking back to a number of stories and just point out one particularly relevant to the rest of this post: when Constance McMillen was denied the right to wear a tux to her senior prom. A gay female student wanted to attend prom with her girlfriend while wearing something besides a dress. The school acted out of bigotry and denied her that right. (And then got sued and lost, but continued its campaign to alienate Constance anyway.)
Now there’s the case of Oakleigh “Oak” Reed at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Michigan. Oak is a transgendered student at his school and, by all accounts, seems to be well accepted by his classmates and teachers. Even the administration has made some correct decisions with him.
Teachers use him, his, and he when referring to Oakleigh in class. The school has allowed him to wear a tuxedo when marching with the band at football games and he has been given permission to wear the male robe and cap at graduation.
But then Oak decided to run for homecoming king. Like 500 million other people, he turned to the Internet.
[Oak] let the school community know he was running for homecoming king on Facebook.
The honors student quickly became the leading candidate.
He even won. Oakleigh Reed is the 2010 homecoming king at Mona Shores High School.
Except the administration doesn’t see this fact.
“They told me that they took me off because they had to invalidate all of my votes because I’m enrolled at Mona Shores as a female,” Oakleigh told Wood TV.
Assistant Superintendent Todd Geerlings told Wood TV, “The ballots gave two choices — vote for a boy for king and a girl for queen.”
This is rule internalization at its worst. So the hell what if the ballot is black and white? There is no rational justification in what Geerlings is doing. (But is that much of a surprise coming from someone who has chosen to spend his life in high school?) The reason the ballot only gives two choices is because it would be unwieldy and silly to have it say “Vote for a boy for king and a girl for queen. And, oh, vote for transgendered students based upon official school records.”
This is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario. If Oak wants any shot at being voted homecoming royalty, he must run as a girl and be crowned a queen – something which would make him a liar to himself and his identity. It’s ridiculous that Geerlings desires that such a thing happen. But giving it an honest shot means Oak can’t be crowned – even though he actually is the 2010 Mona Shores High School homecoming king.
Congratulations to Oak for winning. Shame on Geerlings and co. for acting shamefully and internalizing rules.
But I’m not directly addressing what matters; maybe I could just sum up this entire post in one line: Don’t treat people like shit.