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Federal action on schools accommodating transgender bathroom use

Glad to see this.

The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

A letter to school districts will go out Friday, adding to a highly charged debate over transgender rights in the middle of the administration’s legal fight with North Carolina over the issue. The declaration — signed by Justice and Education department officials — will describe what schools should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against.

It does not have the force of law, but it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.

The move is certain to draw fresh criticism, particularly from Republicans, that the federal government is wading into local matters and imposing its own values on communities across the country that may not agree. It represents the latest example of the Obama administration using a combination of policies, lawsuits and public statements to change the civil rights landscape for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.

After supporting the rights of gay people to marry, allowing them to serve openly in the military and prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against them, the administration is wading into the battle over bathrooms and siding with transgender people.

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” John B. King Jr., the secretary of the Department of Education, said in a statement. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

Courts have not settled the question of whether the nation’s sex discrimination laws apply in matters of gender identity. But administration officials, emboldened by a federal appeals court ruling in Virginia last month, think they have the upper hand. This week, the Justice Department and North Carolina sued each other over a state law that restricts access to bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms. The letter to school districts had been in the works for months, Justice Department officials said.

“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so,” according to the letter, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times.

The timing of this was propitious or provocative, depending on one’s perspective. As expected, Republicans here completely lost their minds over this, even though it didn’t actually represent a change in policy, just a reminder of what was already policy, which has gained prominence due to the bathroom obsession that is now gripping so many in the GOP. (On a side note: If, as some of our Republican leaders are now whining, it is meddling for the federal government to intervene like this, then what was it when Dan Patrick demanded that a local school superintendent be fired? “Local control”, indeed.) I am certain that a lawsuit will follow, and that’s fine. It’s time to establish some precedents.

The US Department of Education laid out its policy here, and I know this sounds crazy, but it might be a good idea to read it and understand it before making any accusations about what it does and doesn’t say. It also might be a good idea to read about Nancy Sims’ experience about becoming the mother of a transgender child. It’s people like Nancy’s daughter that people like Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz are so afraid of. Honestly, I hope that one of these children confronts Dan Patrick and asks him “Why are you afraid of me? Why do you hate me?” It won’t have any effect on him, of course, but it might change the conversation the rest of us are having. Daily Kos, TransGriot, the Austin Chronicle, the Press, and Think Progress have more.

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11 Comments

  1. I’m going to miss Obama.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    “It also might be a good idea to read about Nancy Sims’ experience about becoming the mother of a transgender child”

    I feel sorry for both of them, but it doesn’t change the basic issue. Nancy’s “daughter” is going to be showering and changing with girls, who are going to see her non-standard plumbing. The whole reason we have separate facilities for men and women in the first place is to prevent that from happening.

    Kuff, you have said you have daughters. Do you really want their first experience seeing male “equipment” in the showers and changing areas at school? I agree that Nancy’s “daughter” isn’t going to be a threat to the girls, but she is going to expose her male plumbing to them, and the Nancy’s daughter is going to see their plumbing, which is bound to make at least some of the girls extremely uncomfortable.

    If we were just talking about bathrooms, where no one is going to see anything anyway because each toilet has a private stall, I would think the issue would matter less. But in the showers, everything is on display, and that’s kinda the point of segregating those kinds of facilities by sex.

    I supported gay marriage on the issue of fairness, but this matter is…..a bridge to far.

  3. I’m a parent of a trans person. I assure you there is no reason to feel sorry for me or anyone in my family.

  4. Greg Wythe says:

    There’s actually no executive order here. The Dept. Of Education is simply clarifying how the administration interprets the law.

  5. Greg – You’re right. I updated the post title. Thanks!

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    @ [email protected]:

    If you had said your child had autism, or had cancer, I’d say the same thing, that I feel bad for the child and your family. No disrespect intended.

  7. General Grant says:

    This is the most unintelligent discussion of a public issue I have ever seen, by everybody involved.

    First, the right’s interest in Trans people seems to be confined to bathrooms, where they make the mistake of confusing personal status with actions. They claim to be for public safety, against assault, etc. Well, everybody is against that. Assaulting and harassing people in the restroom is wrong and illegal, and should be no matter who is doing it to whom in what restroom. But, the right goes further and equates Trans people to people who engage in such behavior. There is zero basis for that, and it is offensive.

    A simple rule can solve this without having to get into who looks like what, etc. as long as everybody minds their own business in the restroom, which in my experience everyone does, there won’t be a problem.

    Regarding showers, do kids still communally shower after gym anymore? They didn’t in my time, which was the 90’s. Regardless, I can assure you that plenty of people of all genders and persuasions, especially teenagers, feel weird about their bodies and plumbing. We could solve all these issues by simply putting stalks/curtains/etc. in the showers. This seems like a good idea all around.

    Now, on the left, there is a tendency to say that a Trans person and a “cis” person of the same gender are the same in all reapects. Realistically, of course, this is not the case. When you see a story about a “pregnant man”, that isn’t the same as if I, a cisgender male, became pregnant. This man becomes pregnant because in terms of his reproductive biology, he is a female.

    Now, for the vast majority of life, a person’s gender identity simply has no effect on other people, and so attempts to regulate gender expression of any sort serve no purpose. People should be able to identify their gender in any way they feel, without judgment or discrimination.

    There are a couple of areas though, where the difference is relevant. One is dating/sexual relationships. Some people simply would not be interested in having an intimate relationship with a Trans person (or a non-Trans person, whatever). This doesn’t make them a bigot, any more than it makes one a bigot to find any trait more attractive than others. Like any personal characteristic, it is relevant to that sort of thing. This is a private, not public, matter, however.

    More publicly, the issue of athletic participation is thornier. The whole reason females generally compete separately in sports is that in general, males will have an athletic advantage. This is a biological reality, based on size and strength. Now, since a transgender female is biologically male, she could enjoy the advantages that having separate female competition is designed to prevent. Now, I have zero idea how the effects of hormone treatment etc. affect athletic ability, but I’m guessing somebody with the proper expertise could. I do know that Renee Richards, a Trans pioneer who won the right to compete in women’s tennis in the late 70’s, has said that she had an advantage, and had she transitioned in her early 20’s instead of her mid-40’s, she would have dominated the sport. That she could compete respectably in her late 40’s suggests she is right.

    Now, I am sensitive to the needs of Trans people to fit in with other people of their gender, and I am confident that with rational medical guidance an agreeable solutions can be reached. But, this is one area being Trans may very well make a difference, and ignoring it is not the right approach.

    In short, being Trans is in fact different than being cisgender, and it’s okay to acknowledge that reality. That said, in the vast majority of cases, it isn’t relevant. Any responsible adult can use the restroom, and presuming that Trans people can’t do that is bigoted. Now, if we could all just agree to go forward on these rather obvious principles, we could all have a more intelligent, productive discussion that would benefit all members of society.

  8. Terrance says:

    Trans rights is a non issue that Republicans have created to keep us arguing about amongst ourselves so we can forget the real issues facing this country. It’s the same tactic Karl Rove used with same sex marriage. While we argue about a boogie man we have poisoned water, the wage gap and a limiting of our civil rights.

  9. Terrance says:

    Trans rights is a non issue that Republicans have created to keep us arguing about amongst ourselves so we can forget the real issues facing this country. It’s the same tactic Karl Rove used with same sex marriage. While we argue about a boogie man we have poisoned water, the wage gap and a limiting of our civil rights.

  10. Jason says:

    The way the president went about this is what concerns me. By stipulating funds to compliance he set the stage for a huge fight and created a winning issue for repubs. I’m sorry for those who live in a bubble, but registered voters do not see this on par with gay marriage. Some see this as a right and are unconcerned with majority opinion, as they see them as bigots. The problem is there are a whole lot of people “they” would classify as bigots. Case and point is recent polling showing Trump close to Clinton-which should never happen.

  11. […] here, here, and here for the background. I can’t imagine Paxton will get the answer he wants to […]