2017-FEB-21: The Trump administration hinted at changing federal government policies affecting transgender school students:
During the previous year, on 2016-MAY-13, the federal departments of Justice and Education had released a joint statement. It interpreted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 law. Title IX states that schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex. This statement clarified, for the first time, that "sex" in Title IX refers to a student's current sexual identity, not necessarily the sex on their birth certificate.
Among the vast majority of students, their sexual identity is the same as their birth-identified sex. However, in the case of transgender students -- who number something in excess of 0.6% of the student body -- their current gender identity is most often opposite to the sex with which they were identified at birth. This statement immediately lifted at least some of the discrimination experienced by transgender students throughout the country.
At the time that this statement was issued, Donald Trump was a Republican candidate for the presidency. Although he personally favored transgendered individuals having the freedom to use the washroom of their choice, he expressed the opinion that the Obama Administration's decision was an overreach. He suggested that the matter would have been better left up to the individual states to resolve.
Vanita Gupta was the acting head of the Civil Rights Division at the federal Department of Justice from 2014-OCT until the end of President Obama's term. She was troubled at the possibility of President Trump restoring the original definition of "sex" in Title IX and thus allowing states to reintroduce discrimination against transgender students. She issued a statement saying:
"To cloak this in federalism ignores the vital and historic role that federal law plays in ensuring that all children (including LGBT students) are able to attend school free from discrimination." 1
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, called the prospect of a retrenchment “outrageous.”
"This is the first day of the president’s second month in office and he is now fully coming after LGBT people. I’m angry; I’m outraged. This is about kids who just want to go to school who just want to be themselves, and to hear the president a week or two ago talk about how supportive he is of LGBT people, it’s just outrageous that he go after trans kids this way." 2
Rob Flaherty, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, called it "a hugely consequential decision." 3
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters that President Trump believes that:
"This is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government." 3
On 2017-FEB-21, the Trump administration was facing a FEB-23 filing deadline for a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case involved Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy living in Virginia.
Nina Totenberg reported for National Public Radio said:
"Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old senior in Gloucester County ... came out as transgender when he was a freshman in high school. The school principal allowed him to use the boys' bathroom, until some parents complained, and the school board [then] adopted a policy that required students to use [either] the bathroom that corresponds with their biological sex, or a separate single-stall restroom office." 4
Gavin felt that the Board decision was a form of sex discrimination. He sued the Glouceser County School Board in 2015. During 2016-AUG, the 4th. U.S, Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor.
However, by a vote of 5 to 3, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the lower court's ruling until the High Court could rule on the case. Justice Stephen Breyer said at the time of the vote that he had joined the majority only "as a courtesy." The Court scheduled a hearing in the case for 2017-MAR. 4
There are currently an even number of Justices on the High Court -- 8. This raises the possibility of a 4-4 tie in the court's final ruling. If this happens, then the decision of the Court of Appeals would rule.
Gavin's case is being handled by James Essecks of the American Civil Liberties Union. He said:
"It’s astounding to me that this administration would decide that it’s going to stop standing up for young children in crisis. That’s a bad development any way you look at it." 3
ACLU attorney Joshua Block is also working on the Grimm case, He said that he was disappointed by the ruling. He commented:
"What is really sad is there's a good chance that even if Gavin wins this case, it's not going to come in time for him to actually [enjoy the victory while he's still in high school]". 6
Grimm entered his senior year in the fall of 2016.
2017-FEB-22: President Trump's Administration rescinded President Obama's protection of transgender students:
The federal Justice and Education departments reversed the guidance given by the Obama administration in 2016-MAY. The federal departments once more interpret Title IX as allowing school boards to require transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their birth-identified gender. The departments issued a letter saying, in part, that the Obama statements do not:
"... contain extensive legal analysis or explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX, nor did they undergo any formal public process. This interpretation has given rise to significant litigation regarding school restrooms and locker rooms. ... [There] must be due regard for the primary role of states and local school districts in establishing educational policy." 4
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that:
"The president has made it clear throughout the campaign that he's a firm believer in states' rights and that certain issues like this are not best dealt with at the federal level." 4
2017-FEB-27: The rate of murders of transgender individuals in the U.S. is rapidly increasing:
GLAAD, a leading national group that promotes LGBT equality is calling for "increased and accurate media coverage of transgender murders." In an article dated 2017-FEB-27, Senior Strategist, Alex Schmider listed seven transgender people killed during the first two months of 2017. All were women who were identified as male at birth, and transitioned to female later in life. He wrote:
"With violence against transgender people at an all-time high and rising, national media coverage is severely lacking. The media must do a better job of reporting these murders and bringing needed attention to a community under vicious and violent attack. In order for people to be aware of the horrific violence affecting the community, the public needs to know it is happening. The media has a responsibility to communicate about the deadly realities faced by transgender people.
2016 overtook 2015 as the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States. In 2016, 27 transgender people were killed in the United States and nearly all of the victims were transgender women of color. ... This number does not include transgender people whose deaths were not reported due to misgendering in police reports, news stories, and sometimes by the victim's family." 6
Nick Adams, director of transgender media for GLAAD, noting that violent crimes against transgender individuals target women of color at disproportionately high rates, said:
"Transgender women of color often live at the dangerous intersection of transphobia, racism, sexism and criminalization, which can lead to high rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness, putting them at greater risk for violence." 7
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