How Dare the White House Take Human Rights Away From Transgender Kids

protect trans rights
Unsplash/JJ Thompson; design by Marissa Pina
As if there were any doubt that our president has no interest in protecting the most vulnerable members of our society: The Trump administration is reversing protections put into place by President Obama, which allowed transgender students in public schools to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity -- a move that has left civil rights groups and Democrats deeply concerned about a potential rise in bullying and harassment against transgender kids everywhere. 


It was a huge win for equal rights last year when Obama issued guidance directing schools to allow transgender students to use locker rooms and bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity (a directive based on Title IX, a federal law banning sex discrimination in schools).

Now, however, the Justice and Education departments are claiming that the previous administration's documents do not "contain extensive legal analysis or explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX, nor did they undergo any formal public process." It goes on to say, "This interpretation has given rise to significant litigation regarding school restrooms and locker rooms."

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Basically, this implies that Title IX does not protect someone's gender identity -- quite a crushing blow to transgender kids. In a letter, the departments also said that there "must be due regard for the primary role of states and local school districts in establishing educational policy," essentially making the protection of transgender students a state issue instead of a federal one.

But considering that 150,000 people ages 13 to 17 identify as transgender in this country (according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law), shouldn't it be a federal issue? Equal rights need to be preserved for our nation as a whole. There is no room for interpretation. There is no excuse for deviation. Equal rights for all. Period.

Even Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reportedly initially opposed this new guidance (though it was backed, predictably, by Attorney General Jeff Sessions). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi echoed the thoughts of many of her peers when she said in a statement: "No student should face discrimination at school because of who they are. Transgender students have the same right to a safe environment at school and in their community as everyone else."

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Unfortunately, thanks to this enormous step backwards, many students likely won't have that right. Several states, including Texas, opposed Obama's initial directive in court. It's obvious which path they're going to choose now that the power is in their hands. What kind of nightmare awaits transgender students in those states?

One such student is Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen from Virginia who was banned from using the boys' bathroom at his school. A Supreme Court case over the ban is pending, but because of this policy change, the justices could now turn the case down and hand it over to lower courts. Again, an enormous step in the wrong direction. 

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It's difficult to understand why anyone would oppose measures that seek to do nothing but protect children from harm. The only conceivable motivations stem from a place of intolerance, ignorance, and hatred -- but then, intolerance, ignorance, and hatred are fast becoming the hallmarks of this administration. Still, even if this ugly rollback isn't entirely unexpected, that doesn't make it any less shocking or unacceptable. It's just one more battle that we'll have to fight ... yet again.

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