The internet is standing up to the Trump administration's decision to remove federal protections that allow students to use bathrooms according to their gender identity
While campaigning to become the next president, Donald Trump promised that he would fight for the LGBT community. Then, he promised to appeal the Obama registration’s guidelines that allow transgender people in schools to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Yesterday (February 22), the White House sent a letter to confirm these were being rolled back.
The Departments of Justice and Education issued a statement that rescinded federal instructions in which schools were obliged to allow transgender students access to bathrooms, facilities and single-sex programmes according to their gender. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “The prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice therefore have withdrawn the guidance.”
Title IX was cited by the Obama administration to issue the guidelines that directly address transgender people and make sex discrimination in schools illegal. When introduced, several states – prominently Texas – sued the government for “rewriting” the law and asserting federal power where it wasn’t needed. The major challenge of the states was defining what 'sex' was, and what the law interpreted as such. While the guidance was not legally enforced, many LGBT groups asserted that it was a necessity in helping to protect trans students from discrimination in schools. As of 2016, there’s been an injunction set by a federal court, but the letter from Trump’s administration has decided its fate.
Speaking of the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law, press secretary Sean Spicer said in a press conference: “It's incumbent upon us to actually follow the law and to recognise that Title IX never talked about this. It was enacted in 1972. There was no discussion of this back then, and to assume certain elements of the law were thought of back then with respect to this would be completely preposterous.”
LGBT groups in the last few weeks have been calling for Trump to help those he first promised to protect: transgender students are at disproportionate risk of suicide, and face bullying and abuse in the school system. A letter from the National Centre for Transgender Equality said previously: “These guidance documents, addressing important issues such as sexual violence prevention and response, bullying and harassment, and the needs and rights of transgender students, provide practical answers to schools on issues they face every day.”
“Each of these guidance documents is based on years of careful research to accurately reflect a substantial body of case law and proven best practices from schools across the country. Most importantly, these guidance documents have been instrumental in providing schools with the tools they need to protect the health, safety, and educational opportunities of millions of students.”
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said of Trump’s decision: “What could possibly motivate a blind and cruel attack on young children like this? These transgender students simply want to go to school in the morning without fear of discrimination or harassment. The consequences of this decision will no doubt be heartbreaking.”
Press secretary Spicer acknowledged that there was some pushback within the White House. Other sources say that education secretary Betsey DeVos reportedly resisted, asserting that there needs to be language in law that specifically addresses trans students. However, she has since said she’s behind the rescinding. The letter from the Department of Education also concedes that schools must create an environment for LGBT students “to learn and thrive in a safe environment”. The department said it would continue its duty “explore every appropriate opportunity to protect all students and to encourage civility in our classrooms”.
Spicer said at a press conference the previous day that Trump believes transgender protections are a “states’ rights issue”.
“It is of course outrageous that the federal government would decline to carry out its obligation to enforce the civil rights laws, to protect the most vulnerable students from discrimination,” asserted the Transgender Law Centre’s Ilona Turner. “It’s hard to think of something more hostile or cruel, frankly, that they could do to the transgender community.”
This revelation could seriously affect the upcoming Supreme Court case of Gavin Grimm, the Virginia student fighting for his right to use the right bathroom as a trans boy. The environment breeding the transphobic sentiment was echoed by Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos, who was dropped by the CPAC for his comments on child abuse, when he recently appeared on Bill Maher's show and called trans people "disordered".
Trans advocacy groups and people across social media continue to voice their outrage: many are heading to the White House to protest, and the hashtag #protecttranskids has gained traction. People are standing together on the internet and IRL to say trans rights are human rights, no matter what the feds say or do. In this fractured political climate, it’s integral that we stand together. If this news has in anyway affected you, please get in touch with the Trevor Project here.