It’s a big moment in the history of transgender culture. The “T” in “LGBT” has been given a lot of media attention in recent months, spurred in part by the transition of Olympic gold medal gymnast Bruce Jenner from a man to a woman, Caitlyn.

Jenner, who reemerged in the spotlight on the reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” and now has his own show, “I am Cait,” is among the first celebrities in the modern era to go public with this transformation. Her journey has put a spotlight on the struggles faced by transgender people, which has drawn both praise and condemnation in almost equal measures.

What’s undeniable is that Jenner has emboldened young transgender people to emerge from the shadows, inspired by fresh confidence. That means the issue is no longer a distant media abstraction; it’s a reality faced in homes and schools around the country, including communities right here in Maine.

Regional School Unit 21 – the school district encompassing Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel – recognizes this reality. Its school board is currently reviewing the langauge of a new transgender students policy, and while the policy’s first draft isn’t perfect, the very fact that it exists is a positive step forward in terms of promoting wider transgender acceptance.

The purported purpose of the policy is to “foster a learning environment that is safe, and free from discrimination, harassment and bullying,” and to “assist in the educational and social integration of transgender students in our schools,” according to the draft’s language. These are noble goals, and necessary ones to protect those students’ interests in a society still struggling with empathy and acceptance.

One of the provisions that has prompted discussion among school board members and student representatives reads, “The school may request documentation from medical providers or other service providers as necessary to assist staff in developing a plan appropriate for the student.” This treads dangerously close to a violation of a student’s privacy, and seems unneccessary. One of the lessons of the recent push for transgender assimilation is that one’s true gender is located not between the legs, but between the ears; a person is a man or a woman, and should be addressed as such, simply because a person says so. They are the authority, and while confirmation from the medical establishment may serve to verify a student’s claims, any student-specific plan for integration should be based primarily on a young person’s stated needs, not those of the medical community. Such policies should find the right balance between pertinent information and a student’s right to privacy.

MaryBeth Luce, chair of the policy committee that crafted the policy, seems to recognize that reality.

“If we feel as though we need medical advice we can certainly get it, but it’s not required,” said Luce. “I feel as though that’s the appropriate decision to make.”

The early draft of the RSU 21 plan contains a number of laudible clauses that protect student rights – including instructions to staff on how to deal with issues such as nomenclature, disclosure and potential bullying. As awareness of transgender issues spreads, it’s important that schools and their parent districts adopt policies that allow such youths to feel included, protected and safe. Kudos to the RSU for considering a progressive plan which addresses the need to assert one’s sexual