President Trump is Sending a Clear Message to Transgender Youth

February 21st 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

After rumors on the matter surfaced Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday confirmed that the Trump administration will be rolling back guidelines that protect transgender students from discrimination.

The Washington Blade reported Trump is hoping to rescind guidance from the Obama administration that protects transgender students by preventing schools from forcing them to use bathrooms that clash with their gender identity. 

The Obama administration guidance reiterated the 1972 Education Amendments on Title IX, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.” Barring a transgender student from using their preferred restroom is thusly seen as sex-based discrimination. The guidance has been a contentious subject since it was offered in May of 2016. It went on to be blocked by a Texas judge in August of 2016, a move that was backed by thirteen states.

Ginna Brelsford, Co-Executive Director of GSA Network, Brelsford explained to ATTN: what the Trump administration's actions could mean for transgender students.

“What they’re rescinding is a ‘Dear colleague’ letter that they wrote last year,” Brelsford shared with ATTN: by phone. “That offered guidance on how to protect trans and gender nonconforming students in their schools as they are required to do in Title IX.”

Brelsford stressed that, even though the guidance is being rescinded, it his her belief that Title IX nevertheless protects transgender students from discrimination.

“Schools weren’t required to do anything because of the [Texas] injunction,” she explained. “Now they’re not required to do anything because the guidance won’t be there anymore. However the rights and protections still exist under Title IX.”

While this is certainly a stressful situation, Brelsford and organizations like GSA exist to enable vulnerable students to be able to stand up for their rights — and they are. This is maintaining a bittersweet status quo for schools for and against protections. “Trans youth in particular are showing up as their authentic selves when they go to school and are demanding the rights they are entitled to under Title IX, sometimes in really hostile environments — and that’s where you’re seeing a lot of these quote-unquote bathroom bills showing up more recently.”

“The protections are still there under Title IX and students are really showing up and demanding that they have the rights and protections," Brelsford said.

Brelsford said that while Title IX isn't changing, the shift in tone from the White House isn't going unnoticed. “The big thing that’s changing is the federal government is no longer saying ‘we have your back’ to trans students. They’re actively saying that ‘We don’t have your back.’ That’s more of a psychological change than an actual change in what schools are doing already.”

Brelsford is positive about the future though. She stressed that students should launch petitions to demand gender inclusive restrooms in schools and to require schools to use correct pronouns.

Brelsford said that she believes transgender students are showing admirable resilience.

“While it’s easy to think that there’s a big fear response from youth, what we’re seeing is actually the opposite,” Brelsford said. “Youth are angry and outraged that their schools and governments aren’t supporting them in the ways that they’re supposed to and they’re demanding that that change.”