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Monday, October 26, 2020

Columns

Transgender students deserve protection


In May of 2016, President Obama informed all public schools in the United States that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.

This declaration did not carry the same weight as a law, but was justified using Title XI Educational Amendments of 1972. Title XI states that “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.”

The Obama administration interpreted sex to include gender identity, and therefore was able to justify the federal guidelines. At this time, many conservatives argued that this was a gross overreach of federal power, whereas liberals rejoiced for this huge win for the transgender community.

Fast forward almost a year, and on Feb. 23, President Trump rescinded this declaration, arguing that this is best dealt with on a state level. Initially, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos disagreed with this decision because of the harm it might bring to the students. However, faced with the ultimatum of resigning or getting on board, DeVos chose to agree with the action. I’m not entirely surprised by her choice; what else do we expect from an unfit Secretary of Education?

Because these federal guidelines are not law, it forces the question: What does it all mean? The same way that President Obama’s rule was a guideline, so is President Trump’s rule. Public schools can refer to state laws that regulate this issue, or make their own decisions if their state does not have rules. As of now, 14 states have non-discrimination laws that protect transgender students.

Although it seems that transgender students can still have some protection based on where they live, this decision has greater implications for the LGBTQ community. It sends a message that the people in the White House do not protect transgender rights. I struggle to understand people’s concern over letting students use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. As if the life of these students aren’t difficult and confusing enough, now they have to deal with bullying and hate.

People commonly argue that the privacy rights of others are harmed, people fail to understand what it means to be transgender. When a transgender person identifies with a gender, they resemble that gender. If you’re a female, another female using the bathroom doesn’t violate your privacy rights; the same way a female transgender individual using the female bathroom doesn’t violate your privacy rights.

Additionally, the argument about potential assault occurring when people pretend to be transgender is overwhelmingly unsubstantiated. Evidence from the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union say “there is no statistical evidence of violence.”

Furthermore, people who want to assault aren’t going to look at these guidelines and suddenly decide they will no longer commit those heinous actions. Regardless of bathroom laws, assault is still against the law.

The true problem isn’t these common, unsubstantiated concerns. Rather, the problem is the underlying construct of what society believes sex and gender are. People constantly show fear toward the things they don’t understand.

As a society, we haven’t made the effort to understand transgender people.

Fariha Jawed is an accounting and political science junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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