With a new Executive Order, transgender rights could be at stake
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Since our new President was inaugurated, he has signed numerous Executive Orders, which have resulted in quite a few changes for our country. One of these more recent Executive Orders repealed previous federal regulations to protect transgender students and their right to use the bathroom that matches their gender (not their biological sex).
Executive Orders are orders issued by U.S. Presidents that instruct how government officers and agencies should act within the parameters already set by Congress and the Constitution. They can’t change any existing laws, but they give the President a lot of power because they are not voted on and must be followed.
Last May, the Obama administration determined that Title IX, a law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in education and other activities, applies to students of all genders. Through this, they made it a federal requirement that transgender students should be able to use their bathroom of choice in public spaces.
Trump’s new Executive Order has revoked these federal requirements. Now, states and public spaces like schools are not legally required to respect transgender people’s rights. It is up to individual states and school districts to determine whether transgender students should be able to use the bathroom of their choice.
Consequently, many transgender citizens may be forced to use the bathroom that they do not feel comfortable using because of legislation that will likely be passed by more conservative states. One state, North Carolina, has already restricted bathroom use to biological sex only, and legislators in over 10 other states are thinking of passing similar laws.
The order represents discrimination towards the LGBTQ community that has been perpetuated throughout society for far too long. As Open English teacher Mary Manor said, “It shows a huge reversal in the general attitude of the government towards [LGBTQ] kids… it’s another example of conservative reactionary agenda trying to undo the tiny, tiny, tiny gains that [LGBTQ] people have been able to scrape out of nothing over the last few decades.”
Because Minnesota is a liberal state, it is very likely that the statewide laws and guidelines concerning transgender students won’t be changing. There could still be some variability on a district-based level, but luckily MPS has assured its constituents that their policies will continue to protect students of all genders.
The day after the Executive Order was signed, MPS superintendent Ed Graff released a letter stating that, “Every student has the right to a safe and welcoming education… Our protections for transgender students and staff – whom we are proud to support – will remain the same today as they were yesterday.”
Nonetheless, it’s certain that many students at South are still affected by the Executive Order; even those who are not trans. “The LGBTQ bubble is very supportive… and if some people get their rights taken away, even people who aren’t transgender will be affected… it will sadden everyone in the community here,” said freshman M Malo.
Freshman Red Gustafson feels sad, because “for most females it’s weird to go into the boys bathroom, and for transgender people it’s kind of like that… It’s hard for them because if they’ve already transitioned its like… ‘oh wow I have to go into a bathroom that doesn’t match who I am.’”
However, South is overall a very accepting place and has been supportive of trans students in the past. One prominent gain made was the all gender bathroom that opened in the spring of 2015. Overall, the all-gender bathroom has been a success, and there are many people at South that will make sure it is here to stay.
Furthermore, Principal Aponte has assured he will do everything he can to continue to defend trans students’ rights. He said that he would tell students of all genders, “You’re not alone… you’ve got people who love you, you have parents that love you, you have teachers that love you, you have administrators [that] all pretty much feel the same, that we’re here to protect all. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Manor agreed with this sentiment, adding, “I would hope that South High School would see this as another place to make their voices heard against this reactionary conservatism and say, no, we stand with all our students: our immigrant students, our black students, our queer students, our trans students, our female students, our pregnant students… we all stand together and we need to make this a safe place for everyone.”