White House Agrees That Transgender Students Deserve Equal Rights at School

Finally, some positive news in the battle for transgender public bathroom rights: In a huge win for transgender kids and their families, the Obama administration will be releasing a directive aimed at public schools across the country for transgender students to be allowed to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity, "even in circumstances in which other students, parents or community members raise objections." Right on!


And parents won't be forced to jump through a bunch of medical and legal hoops to make sure their kids qualify as transgender, either; all they need to do is let the school know that their child's gender identity "differs from previous representations or records."

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I can't imagine what a relief this news will be to so many families. Granted, this directive isn't a law -- so schools that refuse to comply won't suffer the consequences of doing something outright illegal -- but the White House's letter on the subject implies that uncooperative schools will risk lawsuits and/or the loss of federal aid.

As secretary of the Department of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement, “No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus. We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

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Powerful words, and timely, too. Because, as you're no doubt aware, this groundbreaking move comes at a crucial time in transgender rights: The state of North Carolina and the Department of Justice are currently going up against each other over what's known as the "bathroom bill," which requires multiple-occupancy restrooms and locker rooms in public schools and government agencies to be separated by "biological sex" instead of gender identity. 

To force anyone of any age to use a public bathroom of the gender they don't identify with exhibits an unthinkable level of ignorance and intolerance, but to force a child to undergo that kind of humiliation? As a mother, I feel like the idea breaks my heart. It's just plain cruel. Unfortunately, I have no doubt that certain states will refuse to abide by this directive, even with the threat of legal action and loss of funds; indeed, Texas governor Greg Abbott has already vowed to stand with North Carolina and fight Obama on this issue. But surely more states will agree to operate in accordance with these guidelines than not, and that in itself is a huge victory. 

This directive won't fix everything, but it's representative of a significant sea change in our society. It means that the powers-that-be are finally considering the rights of the underrepresented, and that the promotion of policies mandating equal treatment for all is a priority, at least for some. 

One victory at a time!


Image via mydoorsign.com

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