Earlier on Wednesday, I found myself rooting for Betsy DeVos. I know! I was just as surprised as you. Reports from multiple Republicans had emerged saying that that a disagreement was taking place between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos over transgendered students’ rights — and DeVos was siding with the trans kids! But alas:
Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off and told Mr. Trump that she was uncomfortable because of the potential harm that rescinding the protections could cause transgender students, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions.
Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.
So, like I’m sure many of you, when my phone dinged with the latest
trumpet sounds signaling the end of days headline, and it was that the “Trump Administration ha,s rescinded protections for transgendered students that allowed them to use the bathroom of their choice,” I let out a resounding, “FUCK YOU!” Because seriously fuck this. Remember all the way back to last month when leaks about Trump rolling back LGBT-related executive orders appeared to have been quashed when the White House released a statement claiming:
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, just as he was throughout the election . .. The president is proud to have been the first ever G.O.P. nominee to mention the L.G.B.T.Q. community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.”
Yeah, that was bullshit. And we knew it was bullshit. But because we’re literally fighting everyday over seemingly everything we hold dear, we put this to the side even though we knew that there are so many scary possibilities for what he could do to LGBT protections, including marriage equality. So here we are. The White House went after trans kids. Phase one of oppressing the LGBT community complete.
What did the Trump Administration do?
Civil rights badass Anurima Bhargava breaks it down:
Tonight, in a brief and vague one pager, this administration attempted to undo the thoughtful and considered guidance that emanated from many years of groundwork – by schools, teachers, advocates, a dedicated and magnificent team from the Departments of Justice and Education, and a fearless group of transgender students and their families – to make sure that our schools were open and safe for all.
Nothing is offered to replace the guidance, which only creates confusion for schools who desperately sought assistance.
Federal law has not changed. Tomorrow, Gavin Grimm and his team will submit briefs to the Supreme Court that – unlike today’s empty political act – will underscore, with actual legal analysis, that transgender students are protected from discrimination and harassment under federal law.
The timing of the Administration pushing this forward is not coincidental given Grimm’s case going to the Supreme Court. Grimm is a transgender boy. Prior to the start of his sophomore year, his parents informed the school that he is a boy and should be treated as such, to which they agreed. The school, faculty, and students all appeared to be fine with this. Then adults from the community began pressuring the school board, which passed a rule denying Grimm access to the boys’ bathroom. The ACLU took on his case, and the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on March 28th.
Give me some background and facts.
So-called “bathroom bills” targeting transgendered people are narrow-minded, mean-spirited, dehumanizing, stupid, shitty things. People supporting them often spout off false, bigoted arguments that I’m not even going to get into because they are red herrings with no basis.
And for as horrible as bathroom bills are, to create versions of those for our youth in schools is a million times worse. To say it is challenging to be a young transgender person is an understatement. Biennial reports from GLSEN in 2013 and 2015 include the following statistics:
- 63.4% of transgender students avoid using the bathrooms at school.
- 60% of transgender students have been required to use the bathroom/locker rooms of their legal sex.
- 50.9% of transgender students have been prevented from using their preferred name or pronoun.
- 28% of transgender students had been prevented from wearing clothes because they were considered inappropriate based on their legal sex.
- 20.3% of students were bullied based on their gender expression.
- 9.4% of students were assaulted at school for how they expressed their gender.
I am too angry to be articulate right now, so I’m going to point to folks more eloquent than me to make important points:
Shoshana Goldberg and Andrew Reynolds for the Washington Post:
Policies and people, like disparities and discrimination, do not exist in a vacuum but are part of encompassing institutions, structures and environments. Anti-LGBT legislation has serious and enduring consequences, not just in overt actions but also the messages sent to LGBT people. These bills send negative signals and stir up a frenzy of negative attention. That risks increasing suicide and self-harm among already fragile transgender adolescents.
In recent medical studies, Mark Hatzenbuehler and Katherine Keyes and Kristie Seelman find a clear relationship between stigmatizing laws and psychological harm. Anti-LGBT legislation legitimizes the message that you are not welcome here, your safety is not paramount, and you may not choose how to identify or express that identity. Adolescents receive these negative messages just as they are starting to form identities and gain independence. The emphatic social rejection triggers depression, low self-esteem, hopelessness and, often, suicidal thoughts.
… Discrimination against transgender people has resulted in a public health epidemic. The largest study found that 41 percent of transgender Americans attempt suicide at some point in their lives — compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. Young transgender Americans were even more likely to attempt to kill themselves, with some estimates putting the suicide attempt rate among transgender youth at 57 percent.
Let’s repeat that last point for the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW and anyone else who fails to understand this matter: 41 percent of transgender people in the U.S. try to kill themselves over the course of their life. And while they are youth – so, in schools with bathrooms -the rate is as high as 57 percent. This is the real deal health and safety crisis. THIS is what the Administration ought to be fixing.
But no. Angela Peoples and Robin Ridley for The Advocate:
Just as the so-called religious freedom bills are about more than just the right to refuse service because of a “genuinely held religious belief,” these anti-trans bathroom bills are about much more than keeping bathrooms binary. These bills are about policing the life, love, and identity of our community and further criminalizing any life that falls outside of white, cis, Christian heteronormativity. To be more clear, these “bathroom bills” are an attempt to lock up trans people when all other attempts to write trans people out of existence have failed. Rather than focusing on protecting those who are most vulnerable, these bills are an attempt to police gender identities in schools and in our communities — which leaves us asking, “Which lives are we protecting, and from what?”
If we begin with the central truth that these bills are an attempt to destroy trans people and trans lives, then our organizing must be different. It is not sufficient to run television ads or to lobby lawmakers — we must organize as if our lives depend on it because, in fact, our lives do depend on it. We should be organizing from that truth, rather than treating this like any other political campaign.
So now what?
Here are some immediate options of actions you can take:
- Contact your local school board to ask how they are protecting trans students.
- Consider organizing a group of people to attend the next school board meeting to make statements in support of rules protecting LGBT students.
- Contact your state superintendent to ask what kinds of protections are/will be offered from the state level for LGBT students.
- Learn where your state stands on bathroom bills and other anti-LGBT legislation.
- Contact your state-level lawmakers and see where they stand, and share how you feel about the legislation.
- Spread the word to your neighbors. (State legislatures are where the real dirty work of the right has been happening, and it’s getting worse and worse every year. We have a post in the works about this.)
- Write letters to the editor of your local paper standing up for the transgender community. Only nine percent of Americans think they know a transgender person. Being a loud ally is meaningful.
- Support organizations doing great work:
- The National Center for Transgender Equality: the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people.
- The ACLU: if you’re not a card-carrying member, you should be. They’re behind the Gavin Grimm case and generally standing up for all of us always.
- GLSEN: works to ensure that LGBTQ students are able to learn and grow in a school environment free from bullying and harassment.
- TransLifeLine: runs a hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people, ready to respond to whatever support needs members of our community might have.
- The Trevor Project: the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.
- Victory Institute: focused on increasing the number of LGBT people in public office and to provide programming, service, and other support to ensure their success.
- Finally, the White House has finally opened its comments line! (202) 456-1111. Don’t forget to keep it polite!