By: Joshua Ringler and Samantha Storms
Last week, President Donald Trump rescinded a letter that former President Barack Obama sent to educational institutions in 2016 which declared that the provisions in Title IX, the law intended to mandate gender equality, also extend to transgender students.
While Trump’s actions do not remove Title IX from schools, it does seem to give institutions greater autonomy to interpret the law. These protections are not limited to bathrooms; they extend to admittance into locker rooms, sports teams and even what one could wear to prom.
“I’m upset about this. It’s about Title IX not protecting transgender students anymore,” said Adam Gustafson, a sophomore transgender student. “It’s not just about bathrooms. It’s about all educational facilities.”
Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality Mara Keisling identified the president’s decision to withdraw the Obama administration’s federal protection of transgender individuals as an attack on young people wishing to be their true selves in their learning environments.
Gustafson had a similar concern. “These kids are already at risk. They already don’t feel safe. This is just public recognition that they aren’t safe in these public places,” he said.
Professor Heidi Rademacher, a program director at Stony Brook University’s Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, is concerned with how this will affect some individuals. “I fear that this action will result in the unnecessary policing and punishment of gender nonconforming individuals and ultimately threaten the safety of trans students.”
Both Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have made promises in the past to the LGBTQ+ community to protect their rights, but no replacement declaration has since been proposed.
DeVos was reportedly pressured into relinquishing her objection to Trump’s rescission of the letter by Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions. In a statement, DeVos said, “We owe all students a commitment to ensure they have access to a learning environment that is free of discrimination, bullying and harassment.”
A legal battle between transgender Virginia high school student Gavin Grimm and the Gloucester County School Board is at the center of this nationwide discussion. On Monday, the Supreme Court vacated a lower court decision – in Grimm’s favor.
Despite the pushback on rights for transgender students, Hofstra still ensures they will treat every student with equal protection. An email signed by W. Houston Dougharty, the vice president of Student Affairs, addressed the all-encompassing campus. It said, “We affirm the gender identities of all community members; students may use restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.”
However, some on Hofstra’s campus find it difficult to understand the issue. “I don’t know anyone who is transgender, so I don’t know how they would feel,” said sophomore Michael Natali. Even so, Natali, who is generally a conservative, said, “For the most part, I think the federal government shouldn’t tell you where you can go to the bathroom.”