by joel gemino, youth services manager, the lgbtq center of long beach –
The Obama-era guidance, regarding Title IX civil right protections for transgender students, which allowed them their identities at school and to have access to programs and facilities that affirm their gender identity, was rescinded in late February by President Trump, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice. In the issuance of the revocation, it was suggested by White House staffers and cabinet members that the guidance was an overreach and that the issue was best left to states and local governments to decide.
In principle, no laws have changed. Even without guidance, Title IX continues to provide equal access to education regardless of a student’s gender. What has changed however, is the feelings of security that stem from knowing the federal government will work to protect transgender students. Heightened are the fears of families and students whose lives could be put in danger due to this shift. The idea that certain identities can be legally prohibited from existing in public spaces, also sends a message that long-held beliefs about gender are not to be challenged or questioned in America. An idea which threatens much more than just the lives of transgender students.
It should come as no shock, the first anti-LGBTQ action taken by the current administration has targeted the most vulnerable of the community…Trans youth. The action is a part of a larger effort to silence that which poses one of the more dangerous threats to conservative movements: The voices of young people, who, by and large, are considerably more progressive than previous generations. It is an attempt by conservatives, to dictate the identities and values of youth, in hopes of curbing their future left-leaning voting habits.
The action is a part of a larger effort to silence that which poses one of the more dangerous threats to conservative movements: The voices of young people, who, by and large, are considerably more progressive than previous generations.
The silencing effects, can already be seen in the decision by the Supreme Court to not hear the case of Gavin Grimm, the young man who sued his Virginia school board, for the right to use the men’s restroom. Grimm’s case was slated to be heard by the Supreme Court in March, but because of its rescission, the court pulled the case from its schedule. Advocates for transgender student rights were hopeful that this case would help to determine and protect students’ rights to have their identities affirmed in schools. Instead, Grimm’s case will most likely be sent back to lower court.
In the wake of these efforts to make trans youth invisible, supporters online have reinvigorated the use of #ProtectTransKids in order to raise awareness. But in calling attention to the issue, it is important to evaluate the ways in which our dialogues frame the trans youth population. A lesser-discussed and assumedly unintended connotation of #ProtectTransKids can perhaps shape the trans youth community as weak and helpless – a community who doesn’t have a voice of their own. Transgender and gender nonconforming students, while a vulnerable population, are anything but weak and helpless. Let us remember that trans youth have long had to protect themselves…Many without any form of support.
In efforts and plans to protect trans youth, one should remember to include them in that discussion. For a community that consistently experiences systematic erasure, we must actively work to see trans youth and hear what they are saying. We must counter the federal government’s active attempts to silence trans youth, by elevating the voices of young trans people as a way to demonstrate their resilience and power.
The fight is larger than legal protections. As Sam Moore, a young activist from San Francisco State University states: “#ProtectTransKids means allowing trans youth to live our own truths. This isn’t only about bullying and bathroom rights, it might also mean adjusting your vocabulary, actions and belief systems surrounding gender. As trans kids, we have to deal with trying to change in order to better reflect our true selves, while the rest of the world is hell-bent on staying stagnant. Protecting trans kids means challenging that stagnancy.”