On Wednesday, Feb. 22, the Trump administration repealed the federal protection for transgender individuals who use public restrooms that agree with their gender identity. The protection was implemented by the Obama administration on May 12, 2016 and protected transgender students’ rights in public schools.
The repeal now allows respective state governments to decide whether or not to allow transgender students to use restrooms of their choice. “This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a press release. DeVos was initially against signing off on the directive but ultimately agreed when pressured by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump.
According to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, this action was spurred by the Supreme Court case G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board where transgender teen, Gavin Grimm, is suing the officials who forbade him from using the men’s restroom at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts. The case is currently under review by the Supreme Court.
There is national debate as to whether or not Title IX, which protects individuals from sexual discrimination at any university or education program that receives federal funding, applies to one’s gender identity as well. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated on Wednesday, Feb. 22 that the Obama administration’s description “did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.”
In an interview with the Highlander, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) stated, “There is legislation in the House that would pertain (to transgender public restroom rights) but it is not in response to the Trump administration’s decision to abandon transgender protection in public restrooms.”
In response to Attorney General Sessions’ comments criticizing former President Obama’s interpretation of Title IX, Takano said, “I think that the Obama administration worked really hard to give the states and the local school districts an interpretation which would protect transgender students and their right to get an education and to give guidelines in such a way that they wouldn’t be overly burdensome.”
Despite the repeal of these federal protections, UC Riverside continues to offer single occupancy restrooms to all faculty, staff and students. In 2016, UCR, in response to a directive given by the UC Office of the President, converted 111 restrooms to be inclusive of transgender individuals and individuals that provide care for members of another gender. This directive also stated that any buildings under heavy construction or any new buildings being constructed are now required to be gender inclusive.
Also at UCR, the LGBT Resource Center opposes actions and legislation that marginalizes members of the LGBTQ community. The center provides support, education and advocacy for UCR students. They also guide students to the various support and care groups on UC campuses.
Megan Rush, the program coordinator at the LGBT Resource Center in Costo Hall, stated, “I think that it is really sad because this legislation was originally designed to protect trans students. So, with the revoking of it, I think that it is very harmful to trans children and trans kids who just want to pee in peace.”
Rush also emphasized the importance of Title IX and protecting “gender variant people and people who have gender identities that are different from what we consider the norm and the prefered.”
A fourth-year liberal studies major and ally, who requested anonymity, said, “Discrimination is discrimination. If it’s targeting your race, your ethnicity or your sexual preferences (…) it shouldn’t matter what way.”
The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education are going to continually analyze any legal issues that stem from the Trump administration’s actions.