by Kristina Vakhman
The choice by the Trump administration to revoke federal guidelines that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice was ill-informed and misguided, according to Crystal Nieves, university assistant at Central Connecticut State University’s LGBT Center.
“It is extremely counterproductive to ensuring that transgender students have an equal opportunity to succeed in reaching their educational goals and surviving their educational environment,” said Nieves.
A key point in the federal guidelines was allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponded with their gender identity. Overturning this element, Nieves said, is extremely dangerous.
“There are serious health risks of not having safe access to restrooms,” said Nieves. “Think about the pain, discomfort and health issues associated with holding in your restroom needs for an entire day because, you are away from the privacy of your own home bathroom. Imagine having to experience that every day over your entire educational career, because your privacy, your safety and your life may be at risk otherwise. It’s unacceptable.”
“Even more concerning is the risk of injury and death that transgender people face when forced to use a restroom based on their assigned sex at birth if it is in-congruent with their gender expression. This act outs transgender people against their will to strangers and puts them at extraordinary risk for violence,” said Nieves.
The revocation came after the Justice Department and the Education Department informed the Supreme Court in a joint letter that they “have decided to withdraw and rescind the guidance documents,” and “will not rely on the views expressed within them.”
Multiple Republican sources told The New York Times that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “initially resisted” the repeal. However, Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who has long opposed LGBT rights and needed DeVos’ consent to proceed — brought the case to the White House, where President Donald Trump pressured DeVos to relent.
With the federal guidelines annulled, it is up to individual schools to decide whether to let transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice. In addition, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginian transgender student who sued the School Board of Gloucester County in 2015 for barring him from using the boy’s bathroom at his high school.
At CCSU and other Connecticut institutions, “transgender students will continue to have their fundamental civil rights protected, regardless of what Washington says,” according to a written statement by Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.
“Our focus is on developing successful, engaged citizens and to do that we must provide a learning environment that welcomes and encourages personal growth for all students,” said Ojakian in the statement. “We will continue to make sure that all of our students feel valued, visible, protected and empowered to pursue their education.”
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy also responded, immediately signing an executive order that strengthened protections for transgender students and urged school superintendents to “honor a transgender student’s choice of [bathroom] facility.”
Trump’s siding with Sessions goes against his campaign promises to defend the LGBT community. In an interview with “The Today Show” last year, the president expressed support, even going so far as to say Caitlyn Jenner would be free to use the bathroom of her choice if she walked into Trump Tower. At one point, he tweeted that he “will fight” for the LGBT “while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten its freedoms and beliefs.”
Nationwide protests are demanding that Trump stay true to his word, arguing that he has gone too far. A CCSU transgender student, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed.
“I can’t stand that he’s taking the most vulnerable demographic, the demographic with the highest suicide rate, and throwing them under the bus,” the student said. “This presidential administration has crossed the line and the American people must demand accountability.”