Wednesday, March 01, 2006

(Without) Qualification

I know it's politically incorrect. I realize saying this will brand me a closed-minded bigot in some circles. I'm sure I'll get hate mail, but I'm going to say it anyway. I know everyone's thinking it.

Lily McBeth looks ridiculous.

Last year, McBeth, now 71, had a sex change to become a woman. "She" is a retired sales executive who was married for 33 years and had three children. For five years, McBeth taught elementary school as a man, and now she wants to return to the classroom as a woman. On Monday, a New Jersey school board voted to allow her to work as a substitute teacher.

Monday's meeting was demanded by parents who objected to McBeth's request. One parent sponsored a newspaper ad urging parents to attend the meeting. Supporters of McBeth also showed up, including three fellow transsexuals and a mother of three students who said she had transsexual relatives.

McBeth's supporters argued that elementary school students are too young to understand what they called "gender reassignment." I think they're grossly underestimating the intelligence of 12-year-olds, but even if that were true: Kids are hypercritical of their teachers. Maybe a classroom of second-graders won't grasp the term "transgender," but I promise you: They can spot weird.

McBeth told the press, "A good teacher is a good teacher." I'm always amused by transsexuals who spend thousands of dollars to undergo surgery and then act as if the result is completely irrelevant. If your appearance doesn't matter, there are less painful ways to express yourself. Buy a new shirt. Get a haircut.

Maybe McBeth was a good teacher. But I'd submit that teaching elementary school is largely about respect; and as a substitute teacher, your job is less about helping children to understand lessons than it is about getting them to sit quietly and behave while their real teacher recovers from the flu. In that regard, McBeth just went from being a grandfather in a field dominated by women to being someone with a deep voice and masculine appearance who's wearing a dress.


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