- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut transgender students not only can use the bathroom of their choice, but also play on sports teams that match their gender identities, education officials said.

Friday’s recommendations on transgender student rights from the Obama administration are nothing new in the state, said Vincent Mustaro, head of policy for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.

The state passed a law in 2011 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression in all areas and contexts in which the laws already prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.

The association has recommended since 2013 that schools adopt policies to address transgender students by a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identities and allow them access to restrooms and locker rooms that match the identities.

It also recommends that “Any student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, should be provided access to a single user restroom. However, no student shall be required to use such a restroom because they are transgender or gender non-conforming.”

Mustaro said he doesn’t know how many school systems have adopted that language, but said there “has been no pushback.”

Karissa Niehoff is the executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs scholastic sports in the state. She said the CIAC three years ago also began allowing transgender students on the athletic teams that match their identities.

She says there, so far, have been three cases - all females transitioning to males - with no complaints.

“But had somebody said to us, ‘Hey you have a transgender (student) playing on the team and we think there is a physical disadvantage,’ well, we support that student,” she said. “We’re very much in favor of the student’s gender identity of choice.”

The state does have a policy that prohibits boys from playing on girls’ teams. But Niehoff said a transgender student transitioning from male is considered a female and that rule would not apply.

The CIAC allows just one change in gender identity during a high school career, she said.

Dusty Rader, 25, is a Connecticut high school English teacher who began transitioning from female to male while in high school. He said that he often would spend the school day “holding it” so he did not have to choose which bathroom to enter.

He said he first used a boy’s bathroom in the high school a year after graduating, when he came back to visit. He said someone he knew was in there and it took some time for that student to process what was going on.

“Then he kind of realized, ‘Well of course you would use the men’s room and there was no problem,” he said.

Rader said he would like to see bathroom signs changed in Connecticut schools to just read “with urinals” or “without urinals” and then let people choose which they would like to use.

“For transgender kids, the choice now is often, Do I want to get ridiculed by going into the women’s room or do I want to get beat up by using the men’s?” he said.

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