Since the inauguration, many people, including women, minorities and scientists, have felt targeted, bullied and worrisome for the future under the leadership of our new president and those within his administration. As a result, more than one million people marched through major cities to show their support for gender equality. Protesters took residence at airports throughout the country to defend immigrants traveling into the United States. And most recently, scientists of all ages rallied in Copley Square to advocate for the importance of scientific thought.
On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump struck once again. This time, Trump invalidated federal protections for transgender students to use whatever bathroom they wish based on their gender identity. Though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos originally opposed Trump’s decision, she swayed to the views of Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to relinquish this question for individual states to decide.
Rescinding this rule, started by the Obama administration in May in accordance with Title IX, is extremely cruel to the entire transgender community. They were given a right, a right to use whichever bathroom they felt comfortable with, and now the federal government is saying it doesn’t feel comfortable protecting this right. This country has just begun to acknowledge and work toward accepting the transgender community, and now they have an excuse, given by the president, to continue to question the validity of this group’s fundamental rights.
Not only is it troubling for younger children in schools who question their gender, but this is also a setback to the national movement for transgender rights. It must be extremely disheartening to hear from the federal government that your rights are not being directly protected. Trump is essentially proclaiming that state autonomy is valued above the rights of an entire community within this country, one of 1.4 million people. There are no facts or statistics that prove a correlation between nongendered bathrooms and a higher level of sexual assault in public schools and bathrooms. It must be difficult enough to not know what signage on a door represents who you are as a person. To possibly not be able to make that decision for yourself is simply immoral.
The movement for basic human rights and the equality of transgendered people needs to be dealt with on a national scale. Using bathrooms is not a different thing in one state from another, or from one school to another school — in order to create true, undeniable change, this needs to be a nationwide effort. While sweeping federal laws sometimes do make it hard for communities to move with them, in the case of gender equality, an issue that has plagued America since its founding documents, federal regulations are required to set a precedent.
Though legal action is incredibly vital to the proliferation of rights for the transgender community, for people to accept this group within society, laws are not enough. Many people are still uncomfortable with transgender people and a law stating that transgender people may use whatever bathroom they wish will not make those people automatically accept them. As long as we see these issues and others like it as taboo, change won’t come. This issue is inherently societal, caused by a general lack of education and a lack of empathy. Levels of discomfort are understandable from both the transgender community and opponents of it, but an institutional shift must occur if we wish to see this discomfort dissipate. Legal action, along with societal normalization, is the only way to make progress for the transgender community.
Though Obama’s administration did pass a bill, states have violated these regulations in the past. Perhaps now that Trump has rescinded this bill, he actually did activists a favor. We’ve seen the American people rally behind the Affordable Care Act once the Republicans are talking about “Repeal and Replace,” though upon Obama’s exit from the White House, the program was nowhere near as popular. Perhaps Trump will encourage people to assemble around this cause, spread awareness and urge their local and state governments to make the ethical decision. In general, people don’t know what is valuable until they’ve lost it. Hopefully, though Trump is leaving this decision up to each state, Americans will fight for the rights of transgendered people from a grassroot level. This may be putting too much faith in the citizens of this country, but in the current political landscape, it is what we are left with.