In yet another now commonplace display of bigotry, on Feb. 23, Donald Trump and his administration rescinded the federal guideline put forth by former President Barack Obama to protect the right of trans students to use bathrooms that align with their gender.
The Washington Post reports that the Departments of Justice and Education, with Trump’s support, made the announcement under the guise of protecting “states’ rights.” With Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ record of constant opposition to LGBTQ+ rights, it should be clear that this has nothing to do with states’ rights.
Trump stated numerous times throughout his candidacy that he would not make changes to the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans. But of course, along with many of his other campaign promises, that went out the window once he actually took office. His attacks on a number of marginalized communities and lack of condemnation for white supremacists make it completely believable that he would move on to attack the trans community.
There are a few important facts that must be taken into account regarding trans students: Students who are trans are especially vulnerable to harassment from peers and school administration. This harassment can range from misgendering to physical violence, and it disproportionately affects trans students of color. A survey conducted by GLSEN in 2016, and reported on by the National Center for Transgender Equality, found that 75 percent of trans students in K-12 schools feel unsafe. Oftentimes this lack of security leads to lower GPAs, attendance and numbers of trans students applying to and attending institutes of higher education. This report also found that 59 percent of trans students are denied access to the bathroom of their gender.
The rescinding of protections to trans students is unacceptable and a direct attack by the Trump administration on students who already face harassment on a daily basis. The ACLU found that 14 states are currently considering bills that actively fight to restrict bathroom access to trans folks. With state governments now in charge of whether or not trans students can use the bathroom of their gender, trans students in red states are in great danger of increased discrimination.
Reports from CNN indicate that Betsy Devos, the new and notably unqualified Education Secretary, actually opposed taking away protections from trans students. Evidently this opposition was not successful. This should not surprise anyone either. DeVos has no political backbone and her failure to stand up against Trump and Sessions should serve as an indicator of her level of dedication to defending the students whose interests she is meant to protect. She has no experience working with students of any sort, much less trans students. She is not an advocate the trans community can rely on.
This attack on trans youth is disgusting and must be called out as such. Students deserve to use the bathroom of their gender, and politicians in Washington must make efforts to protect all citizens. With the era of Trump looming over the country for the next four years, we must acknowledge that the fight will be a long and difficult one. But that fight has to go on for the sake of the trans youth in this country and all others affected by this administration.
Until then, we would all do well to keep in mind the words trans activist Janet Mock tweeted out following the announcement: “To young trans folk: Remember this is your school too. You deserve equal access, affirmation & education. You belong. Nothing is wrong w[ith] you.”