In Defense of the Transgender Community Regarding the Use of Restrooms Matching Their Gender Identity in Public Schools
March 15, 2017
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According to a 2016 study conducted by the Williams Institute, over 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender. Though the massive population should come with it unquestionable liberty, the transgender community continues to face an uphill battle concerning their civil rights. Instead of being granted the full lenght of rights to which they are supposedly endowed, the minority group remains drowned out when voicing their arguments to a mostly conservative, Trump administration.
A recent example that illustrates the dismantlement effort Trump and his yes men have taken against the relatively stable structure of gender rights, has been their overturn of Barack Obama’s law to grant transgender students the option of choosing a bathroom that best aligns with their gender identity.
Secretary of the Press, Sean Spicer explained regarding the decision, “The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government. So while we have further guidance coming out on this, I think that all you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time, that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in.”
The Justice and Education departments said February 22, the Obama 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. This interpretation has given rise to significant litigation regarding school restrooms and locker rooms."
When reading both responses, the effects of this overturn become evident. Conservative states will continue to bar students from occupying the bathroom that fits their identity, while more liberal states will allow gender neutral bathrooms. With time, the liberal states will continue to progress in civil rights for transgender people, while the conservative states will be stuck in the past, as Republican reign in these states will remain due the LGBT communities failure to outnumber anti-lgbt voters.
When a community continues to perpetuate the idea that their transgender members should not delights in the same privileges, prejudice will be bound to remain as transgender people will stick with the label of second class citizens.
The Washington Post reports, The American Civil Liberties Union, which tracks the legislation, said legislators in 14 states filed 20 bills that could lead to restroom restrictions for transgender people, with some proposing that states penalize schools that violate those restrictions.
The only way to truly end the stigma, is to fully integrate our transgender community into the society which already benefits from their participation. Transgender people already contribute so much to society, they are humans and are entitled to the common decency of being able to attend public school, and use the bathroom of their choice without fearing retribution from close minded politicians and students.
Integration of a polarized community will, of course, cause controversy within the community. Examples shown ahead will illustrate the history of full integration of minority communities in public schools, the initial backlash, but eventual acceptance. Integration of transgender people in school restrooms will become a sensationalized issue, but in due time, will settle, as more students view transgender students in the same light as the rest of their peers, given that the government would recognize transgender people in the same light as every other citizen.
Leaving the decision of enforcement of gender neutral bathrooms should not be an issue left for the states to interpret, as this matter is a civil rights issue, something that is supposedly protected under the Constitution. Civil rights issues such as discrimination toward different genders, including transgender, are to be dealt with at the federal level in order for the states to truly enforce it, instead of leaving them to individually decide whether the clear civil rights violation merits concern.
As stated in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, … nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Though this amendment was largely ignored, and completely obsolete in wake of the Separate-but-Equal Doctrine.
The doctrine was birthed during the Plessy v. Ferguson case where a man of part African descent was denied entry on a train because of his race. The doctrine states that “laws permitting, and even requiring their separation in places where they are liable to be brought into contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race or person.” Meaning, as long as separate facilities had equal accommodation for all races, it wasn’t considered discrimination, though this went on to be the foundation for institutionalized racism.
Thankfully both amendment and doctrine were brought up again during the Brown v. The Board of Education case brought to the Supreme Court. The case involved a young African American by the name of Linda Brown was unable to attend an all white school closer to her home, due to segregation laws kept in place by the Separate-but-Equal Doctrine.
The court eventually ruled in her favor, outlawing segregation in schools, citing the Fourteenth Amendment and effectively overturning the discriminatory doctrine. Soon, by the power of the federal government, racial segregation of any kind was eliminated, including use of public restrooms. Though integration began at a rocky start, with students protesting against their black peers, as is it visible today, integration of minorities in public school has been a mostly successful effort and huge victory for civil rights.
If the federal government can force the states to end discrimination against people of color, why do they choose to continue discrimination against people who identify as transgender. If people of any minority can choose the bathroom that best suits them, why can’t the growing minority of transgender people benefit from the system that ruled in their favor?
That’s not to say we should do away with gender oriented bathrooms completely, but at least have laws in place that promote the integration of genders. We need to get used to the fact that transgender people are more than likely going to be using the bathrooms they feel most comfortable with, so why should the government continue to make them feel unwelcome?
In public schools, Trump has left it up to the states whether they decide to restrict the transgender community to the bathroom which corresponds with their birth gender. The job of strong central government is to make students feel safe in their learning environment. Being forced to use a bathroom that doesn’t match your gender identity can be frustrating, to say the least.
Government are institutions put into place for the advancement of the people, instead what we see is government continuing to restrict the advancement of a community, based on fear mongering and outdated Christian values that have no place in a progressive society.
Thomas Jefferson, the most influential philosopher among founding fathers said “The only orthodox object of the institution of government is to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to the general mass of those associated under it.”
He also brings up religious views in government policy by stating “Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights.”
The stigma of LGBT rights follow Christian doctrine, which is strictly against gay rights, such as gay marriage, which was finally made legal on a federal level in 2015.
In 2015, Florida State Rep. Frank Artiles introduced a bill that would prevent transgender people from using the restroom that matches their gender. According to HB 538, a trans person using the proper bathroom would commit a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine. This criminalization would “secure privacy and safety for all individuals.”
Artiles tells the Miami Herald “It’s not that the transgender or the gender identity community is dangerous by any means,” “but [the ordinance] creates a giant loophole for criminals, sexual deviants and sexual predators to walk into a shower, a woman’s locker room under the cover of law.”
A 2017 Vox article reminds us “historically bathroom fears have been regularly deployed against civil rights causes. It was used against black people to justify segregation — by invoking fears that black men would attack white women in bathrooms.”
Another notion to consider is, transgender students would like their peers to identify them by the gender they identity. Implementing laws that force transgender students to use the bathroom oriented toward a different gender would do away with all chances of trans people being able to fit in with their fellow students, as the discrete nature of their transition would be diminished.
The law Obama implemented to protect transgender people from discrimination in bathrooms was centered around Title IX from the Education Amendments of 1972, passed by the 92nd U.S. Congress, during the Nixon administration.
Title IX states – “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
On December 1 2014, to further specify the emphasis on transgender rights, United States Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Catherine E. Lhamon, authorized a document elaborating on the then absence of transgender mentions in Title IX. “All students, including transgender students and students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, are protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX. Under Title IX, a recipient generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of single-sex classes.”
According to CNN and The New York Times, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos originally opposed a draft of the Trump administration's plan for withdrawing guidance protecting transgender children in public schools. DeVos reminded Trump that both he and she had publicly promised to protect all students, the CNN source said. Mrs. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.
When the Department of Education and Secretary of Education are in agreement over the issue of equal rights for transgender students regarding their right to use restrooms that align with their gender, it becomes apparent that President is motivated by his own narrative, refusing to take sound advice from the individuals whose purpose is to watch out for the Federal government infringing on the rights of their students.
Considering the upcoming Supreme Court case regarding transgender rights in public schools, President Trump is trying to set a precedent.
The Supreme Court case in question concerns a teen by the name of Gavin Grimm. The battle that Grimm has been fighting began in 2014, when he publicly came out as transgender. Initially, the school had no problem with him using the boys room, until the parents of students caught wind of this supposed “travesty.”
The New York Times reports, on Nov. 11 2015, the Gloucester County, Va. School Board heard from many parents who urged them to bar the transgender male student from using the male restroom. Though the students of the school were supportive of Grimm as she had no vocal opposition or confrontation, the parents felt the need to speak for their children.
“I know how boys can be, I was a boy… you’re opening up the door, if you allow this to happen” “To combine males and females in the same bathroom… it’s going to be disastrous.” The parents were using fear mongering to amplify a situation out of context.
This case is about a transgender male who simply wants to be able to occupy the restroom that makes him the most comfortable. Listening to the parents address the transgender teen as if he was a subhuman was truly heartbreaking. Going back to the times of racial segregation, these were the exact arguments that were used to bar integration, just replace the word “boy” with “black.”
The case of Gavin Grimm has been so controversial, that Grimm’s case is scheduled for oral arguments in Washington on March 28.
With the devolution of transgender discrimination, President Trump is sending a message not only to the Supreme Court, who will hear Grimm’s case, but to all Americans, the message being, transgender rights is not a national issue.
For the sake of approval on social issues, many people turn to the government's position on matters. When the government tells its citizens that transgender people do not deserve to be protected on a federal level, the citizens follow suit, treating the transgender community with the same respect the government lacks. The parents advocating against Gavin's choice to use the boys bathroom, even though he recently has his birth certificate amended to describe him as male, is a prime example of citizens following government stances.
All that being said, regardless of personal belief, there are laws put in place by our government, specifying liberties that everyone is given free reign to flourish in, not excluding the transgender community.
The Constitution has spoken, our former President has spoken, and the Department of Education has spoken, why should our current administration be able to backtrack on so much progress made to progress the LGBT community and the tools needed to feel welcomed in this country.
On June 13, 2016, when addressing national security, Trump said. “Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words?”
Hopefully Donald Trump with his actions, will change his stance on the issue of trans people using the restroom that will make them feel the most comfortable in their learning environment.