What if, despite identifying as female, you’re not allowed to use the women’s loo? What if you have to change in front of girls even when you identify as male or you’re not allowed to bunk with your besties on school trips because your gender identity doesn’t align with your biological sex.
This is the fate of transgender students across the United States under President Donald Trump’s Department of Education.
There have been at least three cases of transgender students filing complaints with the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) since Trump’s administration, all of which have been dismissed, reported Huffington Post. The publication said documents it sighted showed the office dismissed the cases with an explanation that the issues don’t fall within its purview.
These cases follow a further two involving transgender students who filed complaints after not being allowed to use facilities, as reported by The Washington Post. Those cases were similarly dismissed.
Under Obama’s presidency, transgender people were protected under Title IX ― the federal law that deals with sex discrimination, including discrimination based on gender identity. The Obama administration also advised schools to allow students to use the facilities that align with their gender identity.
But this guidance was revoked only a month into Trump’s rein, effectively leaving it up to local policymakers to issue guidelines on the protection of transgender students.
LGBTQ defenders, however, say the administration’s behaviour is not consistent with many court decisions that have protected the rights of transgender students under Title IX.
“I think what’s important to note is it’s not that the Obama administration came out of the blue to say Title IX now covers transgender students,” Nathan Smith, director of public policy for the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, told Huffington Post.
“There’s a wave of court cases from district and circuit courts that have upheld that understanding.”
It is now feared that transgender students are feeling discouraged to file complaints against gender discrimination on the grounds that they will simply be dismissed.
Complaints from transgender students have fallen by 40 percent in the past year, according to Huffington Post.
“This is not surprising, but it does seem to be consistent with the idea that students who are facing discrimination, who really are suffering in their ability to get an education, don’t believe that OCR will protect them,” National Center for Transgender Equality policy director Harper Jean Tobin.
Students cannot learn if they don’t feel safe. @EDcivilrights should be working to ensure all students can feel safe at school, but instead they are dismissing the students who need them the most. https://t.co/4xGCdwFP2P
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) January 16, 2018
Kenneth Marcus, current president and general counsel for a nonprofit Jewish advocacy group Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, has been nominated as the new secretary for civil rights.
However, Marcus did not say whether or not he thinks transgender students should be able to access facilities that are consistent with their gender identity.
“Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex,” wrote Marcus. “The question as to whether Title IX provides additional protections to transgender students beyond those described above, and the nature and scope of such protections, is currently being litigated.”
LGBTQ advocates say they’re not optimistic that Marcus will work to protect these students.
“I don’t expect he’ll have the ability to reverse course on this issue in a way that we would love,” said Smith. “I think the administration position on that is backward … both in logic and the direction of the law.”