Yesterday, President Donald Trump removed protections for transgender students that President Obama had put in place. These protections had allowed trans students to use the bathrooms that matched their gender identity, not the gender they were assigned at birth.
According to the New York Times, Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy Devos initially resisted the bill, while Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushed for it. Trump himself had previously said that trans people should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate,” so this decision is a sign of Sessions’ great influence over Trump.
Anti-trans rights conservatives often argue that letting people use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity puts cis women at danger. But in fact, there have been zero reported cases of trans people harassing cis people in bathrooms, while a 2016 survey showed that 70% of trans people have been harassed by cis people in bathrooms. A different survey, from 2015, showed that 59% of trans people have avoided using public bathrooms out of fear of confrontation, and that 31% — almost a third — of trans people have avoided drinking and eating so that they are able to avoid public bathrooms.
Recently, Emmy-winning actress and trans rights activist Laverne Cox explained why the “bathroom debate” is a civil rights issue:
“These bills are not about bathrooms. They’re about whether trans people have the right to exist in public space. If we can’t access public bathrooms, we can’t go to school, we can’t work, we can’t go to healthcare facilities — this is about public accommodations and public accommodations are always the key to civil rights.”
NPR points out that on March 28, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a lawsuit filed by 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, who is trans and a high school senior in Virginia, against his school board. His argument says that trans bathroom discrimination violates Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools.
The ACLU said in a statement:
"While it's disappointing to see the Trump administration revoke the guidance, the administration cannot change what Title IX means. When it decided to hear Gavin Grimm's case, the Supreme Court said it would decide which interpretation of Title IX is correct, without taking any administration's guidance into consideration. We're confident that that the law is on Gavin's side and he will prevail just as he did in the Fourth Circuit."
In a letter on Facebook to trans students everywhere, author and trans right activist Janet Mock writes:
I know first hand how utterly vital it is for young people — for all of us actually — to be met with nods, applause, and open doors. It’s even more urgent for marginalized students, regardless of their ability, race, class, immigration status, religion, sexual orientation or gender expression and/or identities.
To young trans folk (and all the people who love them) I just want you to remember that this is your school too. You deserve to be there just as much as any other student. You deserve equal access, affirmation and an education, and you must recognize and I know you know, that you are powerful. You have agency and voice. Use it to organize, combat against ignorance and resist.
You belong, and nothing — absolutely nothing — is wrong with you.
Last night, activists protested in front of the White House, chanting, “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.” #ProtectTransKids is trending on Twitter. Further protests are being planned in cities around the country.
We encourage you to call your representative, join a protest (here are the details for New York and Boston,), donate to the ACLU or the Transgender Law Center or another organization (here are some that Janet Mock suggests supporting), and make your voice heard. Trans people have the right to be in public spaces. Trans kids have the right to go to school. #ProtectTransKids.
Top photo: Twitter/ACLU
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