That High School Gender-Neutral Restroom


Every Monday, I give an Article of the Week to my students. It’s my attempt to get their noses out of their phones to try and give them some glimpse of what’s going on in this world, a world they’ll be expected to independently interact with very soon. This past week’s article sparked quite a good conversation in class (as good a conversation that CAN be had anyway, being so close to the end of the year).

Santee High School in LAUSD is opening up a 15-stall, gender-neutral bathroom. Anyone can use the restroom here regardless of gender or gender-association (the gender you associate with regardless of the one biology assigned you). The idea was proposed by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club in an effort to provide a place for transgendered students to safely empty their bladders (because no one craps at school…don’t you remember?).

After bouncing around ideas and opinions on the matter, we arrived at a place where the topic generally broke down to two issues for them.

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Things Learned From My Mother’s Passing

Version 2

Let Go

Death began as a distant hypothetical since the word “cancer” was first uttered two years before. Acknowledging the word early was perhaps my brain’s way of beginning to protect itself from the weight of an ending that could, and in my mother’s case, ultimately did occur. Still, it’s difficult to pinpoint the moment she crossed a point of no return, when all other avenues darkened and left only one final and inevitable lit road my mother had left to take.

Her cancer, as with most other situations in life, arrived accompanied by a host of possible outcomes. The idea of my mother dying, unpleasant as it was to acknowledge, stood on equal footing along with all other probabilities, prognoses, treatments, and outcomes. It all became like a party our family was suddenly and inescapably tasked to organize, Death being one attending guest among many. Like all the rest, I welcomed it. What other choice was there?

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Commencement Speech – Class of 2015


Good evening friends and family, teachers and staff. Good evening Elizabeth Learning Center Class of 2015.

Writing a speech for this event has always been a bit of a challenge for me. The challenge comes from trying to encapsulate what an entire section of the student body is within the limitations of a few hundred words.

I’ve found, however, that the best places to gather the inspiration to write some words about you guys, has always been, well, you guys – being around you, observing how you interact, seeing what the spirit of the ELC Class of 2015 is all about.

I caught my first glimpse of that spirit during your Senior Holiday gathering back in December. That was the first time that I saw all of you together simply being you. I came away from that evening with a better idea of who you are and what this year means for you.

Specifically, though, I came away with three point, one serious and two not-so serious. I’ll begin with the two not-so serious points.

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Letter to Downey


Sent to and published in The Downey Patriot.

As a new resident of only one year, I have to say that I am very happy to call this city home. As a child of immigrant parents and growing up in the barrio, purchasing a home here through some hard work, a bit of sacrifice, and a little luck has become the fulfillment of an American Dream. I look forward to being a part of this established yet still growing city.

However, as a new Downey resident, I can’t help but to set an all-too observant eye upon my new city. For better or for worse, being new has made it easier to arrive at a piece of constructive criticism. It has to be said that this criticism is not exclusive to Downey – it’s one, in fact, that can be applied to many places in this country, especially here in the Southwest. Still, because Downey is now home, because I have no intention of going anywhere else, and because a little fault-finding can be a seed of change, I’ll just lay it out here.

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Playing the Religious Freedom Card

Response to conservative uncles concerning the recent focus on ‘Religious Freedom’ laws around the country. 

Here’s the bottom line:

Yes, most businesses will see the wisdom in keeping their religion to themselves. Yes, this law will only be exercised by a tiny fringe of business owners. Yes, everyone has the freedom not to give their money to these fringe businesses.

I think we are both in agreement up to here.

From this point, my position is this: as a person of faith, you have the freedom to believe and worship whatever you’d like, so long as it does not become an incursion on the outer social civilized world.  If we were talking about certain tenets of Islam, you would agree with me. These business owners that are making a fuss are (as certain conservative Christians tend to do) playing the victims, looking to government to make laws that say all should tolerate their religious intolerance.

This distorts the tenet of religious liberty that’s part of the foundation of this country. It bends the boundaries of this freedom to the breaking point and, like we do when a child misbehaves or is publicly acting selfish, it has to be told, “No, we don’t do that here,”…’here’ in this case being the public space.

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