By Emily Jones
On Wednesday, February 22, President Donald Trump renounced federal protections for transgender students to use bathrooms and other facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The protections came from the Obama Administration, ordering public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
In March 2016, North Carolina passed a state bill prohibiting people from using bathrooms that did not match the gender on their birth certificate. North Carolina lost around $400 million between businesses and organizations following this law. The Obama Administration, as well as the Justice and Education Departments, responded with a federal letter of protection on May 13, 2016. The letter enforced non-discrimination, and came with a 25-page document on how to create safe environments for transgender students, such as privacy curtains. States that did not abide with the letter could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.
The letter sparked a national debate, arguing if the federal government was overstepping its boundaries. 13 states challenged the federal guidance, including Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer included in a press briefing following Trump’s actions that Obama’s protection decision did not consider “input from parents, teachers, students or administrators.”
During the briefing, Spicer also said, “…as far as the conclusions go, I’ve made this clear and the President has made it clear throughout the campaign that he is a firm believer in states’ rights and that certain issues like this are not best dealt with at the federal level.” Spicer mentioned that states enforce anti-bullying laws, and responded to questions about Title IX.
Title IX was a law passed on June 23, 1972 that stated: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Both Spicer and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the bathroom issue does not match the language or meaning behind Title IX.
Protests and rallies have broken out across the country, including hundreds of people marching in New York City and outside the White House, chanting, “No hate, No fear, Trans students are welcomed here.” The rollback has grabbed the attention of both rights activists and politicians.
“Trans rights are human rights,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California. “With all the progress we’ve made, suicides among LGBT youth have declined. This is no time to reverse course.”
California is one of the fourteen states that passed their own non-discrimination laws to protect transgender students, including Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In 2012, many cities, such as Seattle and Austin, required business to have single-user, all gender restrooms.
During his campaign, Trump gained support from transgender rights activist Caitlyn Jenner after saying she could use any restroom in his buildings. Trump followed this with tweets supporting the LQBTQ community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer), and accusing Hillary of being a threat to the freedoms of the community. This answer went viral and caught national attention, resulting in Trump switching his attitude towards state discretion on transgender rulings.
“At the PwC CDI, we are committed to the rights of every member of our community- inclusive of all genders,” said Dr. Mailee Kue, Executive Director of The PwC Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Bryant. “As a community committed to the success of all students, it is important that we recognize the needs of diverse individuals, including members of the transgender community whose protections were recently rolled back by the federal government. The staff at the PwC CDI remain steadfast in our dedication and passion for unity and respect for all areas of diversity as we pursue our work to promote diversity and inclusion. Regardless of the rulings about bathrooms, safety is our number one priority and we will continue to promote initiatives that help all genders feel safe.”
The PwC Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Bryant includes the Intercultural Center, Women’s Center, Pride Center, Disability Services, the Interfaith Center, and Campus Ministries. In addition, Bryant provides safe spaces for students. Students who want to learn more about the LGBTQ community can attend Bryant Pride meetings or email the PwC Center.