The Louisville Forum’s July discussion will tackle the issue of growing up transgender in Louisville—though none of the four panelists are transgender.
The move has prompted criticism from some LGBTQ and transgender activists and writers.
Dale Josey, co-chair for the programs and issues committee for the Forum, a nonpartisan public issues group, said organizers asked Karen Berg, the mother of a trans student, to take part in the panel and represent the human side of the issue.
“We thought that having a mother who gave birth and supports her child’s courageous decision, is going to be intimately aware of both sides of the issue, not only in terms of what impact it has on the family, but also on the struggles that her child has to make, has to endure, through this courageous decision,” Josey said.
The other panelists include:
- Thomas Aberli, principal of Atherton High School, which recently enacted a non-discrimination policy that addressed restroom and locker room use for transgender students
- Dr. Gordon Strauss, professor of psychiatry at the UofL School of Medicine
- Attorney Clint Elliott, a vocal opponent of Atherton’s new policy
Dawn Wilson, a member of the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission, said she’s glad the topic is being discussed, but the omission of a trans person is a missed opportunity.
“It’s a very good start. But we really do need somebody who has the experiences of school, growing up transgender, growing up as a person who is questioning gender, that perspective needs to be there,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who is black, likened the panel to a discussion on African-American issues by a panel of white experts.
“It doesn’t really make much sense, because they’re never had that experience. They’ve never been through those trials and tribulations,” she said.
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, agreed.
“I think it’s a huge swing and a miss to omit a trans person from a trans rights panel of four people,” he said. “I’m glad the Louisville Forum has come to the plate to discuss these important issues, but I think they’re missing the key players.”
The panel’s makeup also drew national attention. Monica Roberts, a trans advocate and former Louisville resident, criticized the forum’s makeup on TransGriot, the blog she maintains that focuses on transgender people of color.
Josey, of the Forum, said the issue might be too broad for the Forum’s four-guest format, but the lack of a transgender panelist was “in no way meant as a slight.”
“People can pretend that this issue is not happening, but the public consequences of normalizing transgender are upon us.” Josey said. “School systems across the country are beginning to allow boys who identify as transgender to make use of girls’ restrooms and locker rooms. That’s what’s happening.”
At the event, Strauss will discuss the science of sexual orientation. Elliott will share privacy concerns about Atherton’s new anti-discrimination policy and his views on traditional family values, Josey said.
The Forum has no plans to change or add to the panel, but Josey encouraged people from the LGBTQ community and transgender people to attend the event.
Wilson said she hopes for the same thing.
“I do encourage people to come to it,” she said. “And ask the question: why don’t we have a transgender student up here? Where’s that voice at, so I can better understand?”