Back in May, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice under President Obama jointly issued a guidance for U.S. schools, which issued protections for transgender students. They said that trans students should be referred to by the names and pronouns they specified, and that they should be allowed to access the bathrooms, locker rooms, and other single-sex facilities that correspond to their gender identities. This applied to all school districts and universities that receive federal funds, and it was a big step for protecting trans kids from harassment, cruelty, and violence. Yesterday, President Donald Trump’s administration finally did what many were worried about and withdrew all those protections, putting nothing in their place.
The Obama administration’s guidance basically told schools that Title IX, the law that bans schools that receive federal funds from discriminating based on sex, applies to gender identity, not just physical sex as assigned at birth. According to CNN, the Trump administration’s letter rescinds the previous guidelines on the grounds that there was not enough legal proof for the federal government’s right to order such things, and that the Obama administration’s guidelines had caused “significant legislation,” which one assumes means that a bunch of anti-trans people sued because they don’t want trans kids using the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities.
“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And a spokesperson from the White House said that was Trump’s position as well
So trans kids should make an effort to be born in states that respect their gender identities? Is a transgender 10-year-old supposed to just move if their school subjects them to bullying and harassment and their teachers refer to them by the wrong name and pronouns? Most of the kids this will affect can’t vote yet. They have no say in any part of this process, and they can’t pick up and just move to a friendlier place.
Rumor holds that DeVos did not want to rescind these guidelines, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions did. The guidance had to come from both the Attorney General and the Education Secretary, and CNN says sources indicated that DeVos was not in favor of removing the guidance, but then Trump intervened and backed Sessions and DeVos went along with it.
Trans kids report harassment, intimidation, and even violence when they are forced to use bathrooms for the sexes that do not correspond to their gender identities, so clearly there is a lot at stake for them. And this could have an extreme effect on trans kids of color. It’s a matter of record that black students are suspended and expelled at significantly higher rates than white students, and one of the things some schools will suspend students for is using what administrators say is the “wrong” bathroom. If you use one bathroom you could get attacked. If you use the other, you could get suspended. And studies have indicated that suspension could have long-lasting effects on kids’ academic performance and achievement.
Trans students are also more likely than their peers to attempt suicide, and institutional cruelty like this is not helping. People who want to help can try donating to Trans Lifeline, a suicide prevention hotline and resource for transgender kids.