I’m gonna give it to you straight: So-called “bathroom bills” are about a lot more than bathrooms. They are about erasing transgender people from public life by legalizing discrimination. Let’s discuss…
The Education Amendments Act was voted into law in 1972. Title IX of that law 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.”
Since then, Title IX has been an essential tool for students and public schools across the country to combat sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, women’s exclusion from sports or scholarships, and all forms of sexual violence.
In 2016, President Obama, who we all miss dearly right about now, and the U.S. Department of Education released a series of non-legally binding guidelines, which stated that “all students, including transgender students, or students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, are protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX.” These guidelines recommended that schools treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity, and protected transgender students from discrimination based on their actual or perceived gender.
This week, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded those guidelines, declaring that Transgender student rights ought to be decided by individual states instead.
Why is it wrong?
I’ll get into more detail below, but want to begin by stating for the record that it is the responsibility of the United States government to ensure equal protection for all of its citizens. For all you Hamilton fans, we saw this as early as the Federalist Papers in 1788. Here’s James Madison in Federalist №51:
“It is of great importance in a republic…to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.”
This is what we have come to call “Tyranny of the Majority,” when the majority (in this case cisgender lawmakers) acts in a manner that intentionally oppresses or subjugates a minority (in this case transgender people).
We have learned from social justice movements in the past that, when States are left to decide minority rights on their own, prejudice and bigotry can strip certain members of society of their dignity.
Some states have their own non-discrimination laws that pertain to sex and gender, some of those laws include transgender people, and others don’t. Check out this helpful interactive map courtesy of the ACLU to learn more.
Last year, 13 states tried (and failed) to pass anti-transgender legislation. This year so far, 5 states have already introduced anti-trans laws.
What can I do to help?
Stand up for trans youth. Tell your trans friends that they’re awesome and important. If you don’t have a trans friend, make some! Correct people who use offensive language or make false claims about privacy or safety. Be a bathroom or locker room buddy. Get your teachers and administrators involved. If your school has a GSA, consider ways the group can be more Trans-inclusive. Petition your school board to adopt a non-discrimination policy that includes transgender people. Urge your school to get gender neutral or trans-affirming signs for the restrooms.
Follow or donate to these organizations:
- @ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
- @TransEquality (National Center for Transgender Equality)
- @TLDEF (Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund)
- @TransLawCenter (The Transgender Law Center)
- @GLSEN (Championing LGBTQ issues in K-12 education)
Need help? Please call the Transgender Lifeline
- US: (877) 565–8860
- Canada: (877) 330–6366
You can also donate to support the lifeline HERE!