I’d like to say I’m surprised by Trump’s decision to revoke the initiative set out by Obama to allow transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice. But I’m not. This administration has quickly proven itself the enemy of progressive “live and let live” social policy. Instead, we’ve got a “lie and let die” administration that grows more terrifying by the day.
You know that this is a scary development for transgender civil rights when even Betsy DeVos, our stunningly, thoroughly unqualified education secretary, was against this move — and was subsequently bullied by Jeff Sessions and Trump to back down and shut the hell up.
I’m not transgender. I’m a cisgender white female. I’m not afraid of transgender people or sharing bathrooms with them. You know what I am afraid of? I’m afraid of trans children being beaten and bullied in the schools that are supposed to protect them.
I’m afraid of the straight, cisgender kids who are watching Trump’s administration create fear and anger where there is no need for it — and are coming to believe that bullying anyone different from them is perfectly justifiable since our president spends all of his non-golf time doing the same damn thing.
My older daughter is gay, so LGBTQ policy shifts are something we play close attention to in our house. Two of my daughter’s dearest friends are transgender teens — one transitioning from male to female, the other, female to male. My daughter and I witness their struggles firsthand — as well as the struggle of their parents to support them and keep them safe in what feels like an increasingly unsafe world for anyone marked as different, anyone who this administration feels like naming an “other” or an outsider.
I also work as a crisis hotline counselor. Many of the kids we try to help are transgender or queer. And many of them are suicidal precisely because they feel they belong nowhere and they feel profoundly unsafe. The number of suicidal transgender young people we care for in crisis climbs each week. The results of the election alone were devastating to most LGBTQ youth — and this new and vile development will only increase the sense of isolation and vulnerability in an already at-risk, extremely vulnerable population.
Trump’s move is even more heinous in light of the fact that the transgender student bathroom guidelines from Obama have been on hold by a federal judge, who argued that public schools and U.S. states should make those decisions without input from the federal government. Trump’s smackdown of those guidelines — already in limbo — is just more salt rubbed into a growing, festering wound.
Some of the trans and queer kids I talk to every week had expressed hope that maybe, just maybe, Trump wasn’t out to get them. But I agree with James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT project, who stated, “Revoking the guidance shows that the president’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric.”
I have had it with the fearmongering of the Trump administration, and our POTUS shows no signs of slowing his violent, regressive roll. Legal advocates for the transgender community have ripped into the argument that this is states’ rights jurisdiction, insisting that civil rights law is the federal government’s responsibility to uphold. But social conservatives are praising Trump’s move, insisting that transgender bathroom choice violates the safety and privacy of cisgender students.
You know who’s really afraid to use the bathroom? Transgender kids. I know one who has been beaten bloody — in both the female and male restrooms at school.
If we’re not looking out for these transgender children and helping to create a compassionate, inclusive society — starting in our schools — I’m telling you, many of them are not going to stick around. I talk to these kids every week, and I have no doubt that some of those already battling with suicidal ideation will eventually turn to suicide. A country that willfully turns a blind eye to the pain of any of its children is not a country I’m proud to hold a passport from.
These kids don’t want into any particular bathroom. They especially don’t want into any particular bathroom to harm others or create fear. They want simply to be themselves — and no one gets to define who they are but them.