Colo. School Board Member Denies Existence of Gay, Trans Identities

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com December 08 2013 8:00 AM ET

The southern Colorado school board member who made headlines last month for her comments at a public meeting that transgender students should not be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity unless they were castrated, isn't backing down from her remarks.

"I'm taking a stand," Delta, Colo. school board member Katherine Svenson told the Denver Post last week. "It will not happen here without a change in plumbing."

Svenson first made similar remarks regarding a "change in plumbing" at a public meeting in October, where she bemoaned a new law in California that guarantees transgender students can access the facilities and play on the sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. 

In a new interview with the Denver Post, Svenson said she doesn't believe in gay or transgender identities in the first place, and would like to establish a local school that does not adhere to statewide nondiscrimination protections surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity. 

"I was a tomboy growing up. I did a lot of boy things," she told the Post in an article published Friday. "I'm lucky someone didn't try to tell me I should be a boy."

While California's Student Success and Opportunity Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in August, is the first statewide legislation of its kind mandating that trans students be granted equal access, Colorado has a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance that requires schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room that corresponds with their gender identity, regardless of what sex the student was assigned at birth. The Colorado Civil Rights Division affirmed this policy in a ruling last year declaring that a six-year-old transgender girl near Colorado Springs must be allowed to use the girl's bathroom at her elementary school. 

Svenson is a 74-year-old widow, whose biography on the district's website says she founded and directs an "ongoing Christian ministry in North India (TellASIA) where she established a 30-child children's home while also teaching leadership skills to indigenous Christians who have planted thousands of village churches!" That biography also notes that Svenson "enjoys volunteering in the Delta community — Basic Plumbing to House of Promise Girls, Royal Rangers at church, Reality Ranch Bible Camp, Vacation Liberty School, a substitute for Sunday School classes," as well as for several equestrian endeavors. 

District officials said they respect Svenson's opinion, but do not agree with it. Delta School District assistant superintendent Kurt Clay told the Post, "We are not discriminatory. We welcome all students in our schools."