Bubblers, Bathrooms, & Taking Up Space

8:57 AM

Last night the Trump Administration withdrew Federal guidelines imposed by the Obama Administration which provided protections for transgender students in K-12th grade. These protections were offered via what's called a "Dear Colleague" letter, correspondence from the Department of Justice to institutions that receive federal funding. This letter outlined President Obama's interpretation of Title IX.


*freeze frame*

 "Yup, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation..."

Let's start at the beginning.  Title IX is a Federal law administered by the Department of Education, and enforced a la Department of Justice.  The 1972 law prevents discrimination on the basis of sex on any institution (college, high school, middle school, or elementary school) that receives federal funding.

When people think Title IX a few things come to mind - some people think athletics, some think sexual violence. What do all matters under Title IX have in common? Equity.  Equity - in this context - is the right of access. When we say "access" we mean "navigate," "attend," "experience."

Title IX ensures that students, all students, are able to learn in their learning spaces without fear, or further challenge, based solely on their sex.  That being said, let me be clear: the right to access public accommodations is about the right to exist, to take up space - to live.

When it was a "states' rights" issue to limit persons of color to one water fountain or another, when it was a "states' rights" issue to disallow women without husbands to get a mortgage, or gay couples to rent a hotel room -  what was really at issue was who states had the responsibility to recognize as people, of any human value.

When transgender students can't access public bathrooms, they can't go to school. When a student is in fear of being hurt or harmed without the protections of their government based on their sex, they can't learn.

Trump's withdrawl of the Title IX protections essentially allows states to mandate that children use the restroom that aligns with their at-birth biological sex, rather than their gender. Sex, on the one hand, is related to biology. Gender, on the other, is ones social expression. Some transgender people may have gender identities that match their biology, some don't (and that's none of my business).

The argument seeded in "HB2" - North Carolina's 2016 "Bathroom Bill" - alleged that it was dangerous to have people of the "wrong sex" in the "wrong bathroom." In reality, statistics show, that's it's actually dangerous to be a transgender person.  We live in a world where people, for merely being exactly who they are, spend a lot of time thinking about their safety, their wellbeing. We have constructed a society where to be a trans person in America puts you at risk for violence, homelessness, and isolation.  We have created a social dynamic where we have neighbors who contemplate not getting murdered.

So here it is. Last night Trump's Administration abandoned trans persons, trans kids. But me? I haven't, and I won't.  To the trans people I love in my life, my family, my friends, my students: you have the right to live, and to thrive. Where you go, I'll go.

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