Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Transgender protections to be eliminated

The rollbacks are beginning. It was--unfortunately--not very surprising to read that the current administration will not uphold the clarification which grants transgender students protection under Title IX.

Also unsurprising is that the meaning of this announcement is unclear. The current president stated, through his press secretary, that use of bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools should be an issue decided by the states. Because apparently the previous regs were too confusing and too hard to implement.

 However, there is some indication that the anti-bullying protections will remain. This would theoretically protect trans and gender non-conforming students; but not allow them to use the bathroom of their choice. But backlash could easily threaten these as well.

So that puts us back to the pre-clarification days of angry PTA meetings and offensive ads by "family values" groups.

Truthfully, of course, those angry meetings, the heartbreaking stories of students who are bullied, who are not supported by their communities and sometimes by their families, have persisted. But now those students cannot look to the government to protect them. They cannot gain validation from the fact that the actions of those around them are banned by the government. The misinformed ads will persist. They may, as we have seen in other arenas, become more overt, more vitriolic, more misinformed.

This is just the first move to weaken (possibly dismantle?) Title IX. We have a secretary of education who would not comment on Title IX enforcement (it's unclear if she knows what it is) and what appears to be the pending nomination of an OCR chief (assistant secretary for civil rights) who thinks the previous administration overstepped in regards to campus sexual assault provisions.

Here is the good news: we have a vibrant movement committed to reducing campus sexual assault and instituting and maintaining proper policies and procedures for dealing with the crime. In regards to protecting trans students, the fight will be more local. We have seen the backlash to HB2 in North Carolina. We can pressure state and local officials to make schools (and other spaces) safe for trans people. We can work within our own institutions to create gender inclusive environments.