Last week President Donald Trump rescinded Department of Education instructions to public schools outlining policy meant to protect transgender students by allowing them to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Barely a month into his presidency, he has stripped one of the nation’s most marginalized groups of an essential right. This eradication of harmless autonomy is Trump’s latest attempt to “make America great again,” and while that fact is obviously frightening to those affected, it should be alarming for all U.S. citizens. The Trump administration is not just trampling on civil rights, but ignoring instructions that accompanied a well-established federal law known as Title IX.
Title IX has been around since the early 1970s, when sexism in the U.S. education system was pervasive and particularly damaging to female athletes with few opportunities for athletic scholarships or to partake in well-funded athletic programs. The importance of such unique legislation – a law that addresses sex-based discrimination in an environment where young people are most vulnerable – is increasingly important today, especially as the government repeatedly recognized LGBT rights as human rights under the Obama administration. The former president’s administration was the first to accept that cisgender women were not the only ones negatively affected by gender-based discrimination, and the preservation of transgender civil rights was promised by Barack Obama in early 2016, when he issued a letter that aggressively defended the rights of transgender students.
Trump-supporting conservatives have called the Democratic action a feeble directive, but forget that the Obama administration’s use of a 45-year-old law sufficiently warrants the strength of those far-reaching protections. Title IX was designed to eliminate sex-based discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity, and the powerful legislation can apply to a variety of educational activities and connected complaints, including those related to facilities like restrooms and locker rooms. And if prohibiting a student from using a school restroom that coincides with their gender identity is not a violation of Title IX, then it is difficult to say exactly what is.
This entire restroom ordeal reveals that Trump’s promise to do “everything in (his) power to protect (America’s) LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful, foreign ideology,” as stated at the final night of the Republican National Convention, was a bold-faced lie.
Subjecting the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students to the jurisdiction of state legislative houses – particularly those of markedly anti-LGBT states like North Carolina and Texas – is subjecting them to the dangerous, hateful ideology that Trump was supposedly so adamantly against eight months ago. Considering his “brash truthfulness” is a characteristic applauded by conservatives, it is noteworthy that the President has so quickly transitioned from gay rights advocate to transphobic oppressor.
While Trump targets transgender students, Obama’s mandate simply elucidated what should have already been implied — that transgender students were protected under Title IX. The Trump administration’s position is that state and local governments are primarily responsible for establishing this sort of education policy. Such a statement highlights White House’s naiveté regarding Title IX’s reach, which by definition overrides any state legislation. And there is most certainly a need to recognize the way Trump readily casts off significant civil law-related issues to the states while choosing to tighten the federal government’s grip on criminal law. Aside from further oppressing America’s most marginalized populations and warming the hearts of conservative dogmatists, there is no method to any of Trump’s orders. His annulling of the Obama administration’s directive is irrefutably another instance of that bigoted ineptitude.
It has been 39 days since Trump usurped American democracy, and this country is sinking deeper into a pit of social and cultural bigotry each week. This is what his voters wanted — the endangerment of lives enabled by an administration that seeks to attack individuals on the basis of religion, ethnicity and gender. They voted for intolerance; they voted for regression.
Sydney Sweeney is a third-year journalism major minoring in creative editing and publishing. Find her on twitter @syderature