BY GWENDOLYN ANN SMITH
In its first major blow to transgender rights, the Trump administration has — thanks to the Department of Education under Betsy DeVos and the Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions — rescinded Obama-era guidance on transgender students. This guidance extended Title IX protections “on the basis of sex” to transgender students, and required schools to provide access to all sex-segregated events and facilities based on a students gender identities. By rescinding these protections, they are saying that it is up to the states, not the federal government, to set policy on transgender students.
This, of course, is the same thing past administrations have done with other hot button issues, most recently within the marriage equality battle. It seems to be the way the federal government works to slow progress, knowing that it could take years for such battles to be handled in each state and, eventually, the courts.
The focus, as with all transgender things of the last several years, has been on restroom use, though these same guidelines covered sports teams and other things that may be sex-segregated within a school.
I’ve written extensively on the issue of transgender bathroom access, and the way those opposed to same use arguments regarding predators using this as “cover” for their crimes. Given that transgender protections to not make sexual assault, rape, or molestation legal, these arguments are misleading at best. It is worth noting, too, that transgender people have been using the appropriate facilities for decades without any major issues, long before this became the “social issue” it is today.
This, however, really isn’t about bathrooms. I mean, it is, but there’s a much larger narrative in play. If you are a transgender student and your school is a hostile environment to you, then you will be less likely to excel in school. You may well drop out. With the department of education stepping back on protecting students nationwide, it is all the more likely that schools in less tolerant communities will become less likely to care effectively for their transgender students.
Make no mistake, too: this is only the first step. Today it is equal access for transgender students, and tomorrow it come be public accomodations nationwide. It could be a rollback of rules protecting transgender people in housing, in shelters, or elsewhere. It could be limitations on federal identification for transgender people. It could even be a threatened religious freedom executive order that could give broad leeway for businesses to not serve transgender people based on nebulous “religious beliefs.”
The end game here is simple: this is an administration that will not stop until they can eradicate transgender people alongside of every other minority group they are attempting to demolish. In short, they want to end us.
To that end, I’ve been thinking a bit of a transgender manifesto. A tranifesto, if you prefer compound words.
The point is this: you can debate the existence of trans people all you’d like, but all this debate does not stop us from being. It’s not like debating the existence of the Loch Ness monster or some such. You can see us. We exist. Flesh and blood, and are living in your community.
You may not like what we have to say. You may stand in opposition of everything we stand for. Our existence might even scare you. Your fear and distaste don’t stop us from existing.
You may choose to call us names, or say that we’re something we’re not, or try to delegitimize our existence – but we exist nonetheless. We remain corporeal, and the words we choose for ourselves are the only words that really matter in our lives.
You can attempt to legislate us out of existence, and use the law as a bludgeon, attempting to remove us from society at every turn. Yet these only serve to slow us down. They do not remove us from physical existence. We will prevail.
Transgender people have existed on this earth for, presumably, as long as humans had concepts of gender. We existed in cultures spanning the globe for centuries uncounted. We are not a fad, and no matter what you try to do, we will exist long after you are gone.
With that said, the Internet has allowed so many more to come to explore their own gender identities, and learn to express them in unique ways. There are so many more out there that are out here existing alongside you and I. There are also plenty more who love us, who call us lovers, or their children, or their siblings. There are more every day that are willing to stand with us, and against those who would rather transgender people did not exist.
Our first and most important right is the right to exist. It is a threatened right. We face murder, we face criminal neglect, and we face societal pressures that force our own hands. Yet you cannot stop us all, and we will survive.
You may not like us, and you may wish that we’d all go away, but we exist regardless, and we will persist. What’s more, the truth of our existence will win out, as long as we continue to be. We will speak, we will tell our truth, and we will exist.
Like so many others, I will continue to stand for my community, and will continue to defend the transgender community in hostile times. That cannot and will not change, no matter what Trump, Sessions, DeVos, or any other stooge the administration sends against my trans colleagues.
The rescinding of these rules is a setback, and a painful one. In the end, however, we will win. Make no mistake.