Under the Obama administration, federal guidance were passed that instructed public schools to allow students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that best correspond with their gender identity. The guidance was originally published in May 2016 by the Obama administration stating that the federal law Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.
However, The Justice and Education Departments under the Trump administration stated that there “must be due regard for the primary role of states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.” This statement reinforces Trump’s ideology that issues such as these should be left to the state and local municipalities, as opposed to being addressed by the federal government. Civil rights groups argue that this decision will leave transgender students throughout this country vulnerable to bullying and harassment for simply trying to use the bathroom.
About 150,000 young people ages 13 to 17 identify as transgender, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. And, according to national statistics, almost 50% of transgender youth have seriously thought about suicide, and 25% reported that they have made a suicide attempt. By not providing federal guidelines for schools to follow, transgender students are left vulnerable to abuse by parents, faculty, and peers alike.
I asked transgender students at St. Kate’s how they felt about these current events. Mica Cole, Apparel Design ‘19, who identifies as agender gave their perspective on these events, “I personally would not like to risk getting murdered every time I go to the bathroom because that would cause a UTI.”
Forrest Swanson, International Relations ’17, who identifies as a transgender man, gave his perspective on these events and discuss what it’s like being a transgender student here at St. Kate’s.
Q: How do you think the transgender students will be affected by the Trump administration rescinding protections for transgender students in public schools?
Forrest Swanson: Well, as you may have heard, there are already rollbacks on protections the Obama administration created. When protections are taken away, children are usually the first to be affected. In the case of people still dependent on their parents or guardians, they particularly rely on these protections to make sure school and home are safe spaces to be.
Q: Do you think the language of Title IX adequately protects transgender students and their right to use the correct bathroom and locker room, or do you agree with Justice and Education Departments under Trump that feel that it does not cover these issues?
Forrest: Unfortunately, the language is too vague for me. I think it needs to be more clarified to cover more gender identity issues. I don’t like it, but I’m inclined to agree that it does not adequately cover bathroom and locker room issues.
Q: Do you have any ideas on how Title IX could be amended to better protect the civil rights of transgender students? Do you believe such legislation is necessary or do you think that such concerns should be left to the state and local level?
Forrest: I’ve never been a fan of leaving things up to the states. The truth is, it is far too dangerous to allow oppressors to dictate whether or not they want everyone to have civil liberties. While some states are good about being rational about things many states would rather live in 1899. When it comes to protecting people, it needs to be a national issue.
Title IX needs to be incredibly clear about the protections of LGBT persons, without it there will also be undertones of institutional violence.
I also think Title IX needs to be more accessible in general, [reports] are difficult to find and the document itself is hard to navigate. How can we expect people know what their rights are if it’s so inaccessible?
Q: Can you speak a little on your experience has a transgender student at St. Kate’s and how you personally have navigated any anxiety over bathroom usage?
FS: Obviously, I stand out. For the most part people are positive but I do get a lot of odd questions- and not everyone is receptive to it. As far as bathrooms, I always get anxious about using the bathrooms in the CDC. There’s a lot of strangers and you never know what’s going to happen. So far it’s mostly been raised eyebrows and double takes but I’m always afraid somebody will say something.
Q: How do you think the St. Kate’s community could take steps to better support and protect the trans community?
FS: Ask me questions! Not all trans people want to be educators but I really do enjoy answering things. I have been asked the craziest questions so nothing will surprise me at this point! Also I wish we would step away from assuming everyone is female here. We boast a lot of gender diversity so asking what somebodies pronoun is would help more than just trans people.
Forrest can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.