On Wednesday, the Trump administration officially revoked federal guidelines granting transgender students the right to use public school restrooms matching their gender identity. These guidelines were repeatedly enforced and advocated for by the Obama administration, which engaged in legal battles to protect transgender students’ rights amidst escalating attacks in North Carolina and other states.
Rather than vocalize a stance on transgender Americans’ rights, press secretary Sean Spicer merely stated that “the president’s made it clear throughout the campaign that he’s a firm believer in states’ rights.” In essence, going forward, we can expect the Trump administration to continue authorizing states across the nation to legally undermine transgender students’ human rights and dignity and further move public schools from places of equality and positivity to places of institutionalized discrimination and bullying.
The Education and Justice departments told the U.S. Supreme Court that the administration will be ordering public schools across the country to ignore memos issued by the Obama administration that, according to the Washington Post, stated that “prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.”
The Trump administration claims it made this decision because the guidelines enforced by the previous administration “lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges,” the Post reports.
However, conservative proponents for legislation requiring individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender assigned at birth continue to advocate for this on the basis of public safety. Additionally, they advocate discrimination against trans people by advancing the objectively false narrative that the transgender community is composed of violent, pathological perverts with the singular goal of victimizing hapless and defenseless cisgender women and girls whenever they use the restroom.
The harmful and ultimately inaccurate narrative that the purpose of anti-trans bathroom laws is defending cis women and girls needs to stop. If the goal were really to protect the safety of women and girls as opposed to merely demonizing and sweepingly misrepresenting transgender people as perverts, conservative lawmakers would pay more attention to all of the cases of sexual harassment and violence toward women. They would quickly find the vast majority of sexual violence toward young women is committed by cisgender males—not transgender women trying to pee without harassment.
If transphobic lawmakers actually cared about the violence that women and girls face, they would focus their efforts on reforming laws pertaining to sexual assault survivors’ rights and promoting increased education and awareness about consent. They would actively work to promote a culture of respect toward women rather than paternalistically portray them as the victims of transgender monsters in need of saving by straight, cisgender, white male lawmakers.
The American public must see through transphobic lawmakers’ public safety pleas and their objectification of young women as pawns to justify their transphobia. To truly promote public safety, we must crack down on sexual harassment and assault in their totality rather than scapegoating a single group of people.
The Trump administration’s latest decision on transgender bathroom rights is particularly detrimental because it’s focused on public schools, where the day-to-day anxiety of fitting in and being included can vastly affect students’ academic performances. Adding discomfort, stress and fear to the simple act safely using the restroom certainly doesn’t help the current mental health crisis growing among students across the nation. Such policies in public schools serve to instill hostility and disdain for the transgender community in American youth at their most impressionable ages.
There exist virtually zero recorded incidents of cisgender women and children being preyed on by transgender women in public facilities, but there is no shortage whatsoever of cisgender women and children being preyed upon by cisgender men in public facilities. If forced to use men’s restrooms in public, it is more likely that transgender women would be victimized. These objective facts, however, continue to be excluded from transphobic lawmakers’ rhetoric and policy proposals.
It’s worth noting that advocacy for policies prohibiting transgender students from using the public facilities that correspond with their gender identity is always rooted in emotional sentiments warning of the dangers of trans individuals. That’s because objective data, statistics, and long-term research all reveal that trans individuals are far more likely to be the victims of harassment and assault in bathrooms than their cisgender counterparts.
Ironically enough, according to objective statistics, Republican males are more likely to be the perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault in bathrooms than transgender people.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has stated that the department’s Office for Civil Rights “remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools” and that she considers “protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the department, but for every school in America.” However, her strong support for private and charter schools undermines her lukewarm support for LGBTQ2IA+ students’ rights given religious private schools’ tendency to discriminate. The Education Department’s latest decision arguably reveals that her words about LGBTQ2IA+ rights in schools were, indeed, just words.
At the end of the day, it’s conservative lawmakers’ prerogative to continue to undermine the human rights of a whole demographic of Americans and continue to shame, demonize, and humiliate them as they try to engage in the harmless, private act of using the bathroom. But the least they can do is leave women and girls out of this, as they don’t stand to benefit even marginally from transphobia.