Editorial: Trump’s transgender bathroom rights repeal is shameful


Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks in front of a crowd July 28 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Editorial Board

Last week, the Trump administration withdrew protections for transgender children that mandated public schools to allow them to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. While critics of the mandate — which was put in place by the Department of Education last May — are relieved that what they viewed as a federal overstep is no longer in place, this celebration comes at the expense of transgender children’s safety.

The Obama administration put this directive into place as a corresponding set of protections with its interpretation of Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs or activities that receive federal funding. More importantly, though, giving transgender children the option to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable using — the one that corresponds with their gender, as the rest of their peers do — is simply common-sense policy that prevents dangerous self-inflicted injury.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than 59 percent of transgender people avoided using a public bathroom in 2015 because they were fearful of confrontation, 32 percent ate or drank less to avoid having to use the bathroom and 8 percent reported experiencing urinary tract infections or kidney infections as a result of avoiding using the bathroom.

When transgender children cannot use one gender’s bathroom because their school bars them from entering it, and cannot use another gender’s bathroom because they experience dysphoriadiscomfort or would be bullied for doing so, it is clear why anxiety and physical health problems are not so out of the ordinary. Transgender children need to use the bathroom, and offering a safe option for them to do something cisgender people take for granted should not be controversial.

Without these protections, transgender children will suffer — and the current administration seems to be fine with this. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos even eventually echoed critics’ views after the protections were withdrawn, saying that “we have a responsibility to protect every student in America.”

As the current administration advocates for the amplification of bullying and bigotry in our public schools, there are a few things you can do to help transgender youth. Because it will now be up to states, cities and schools to create guidelines on this issue, you can contact school administrators or the Iowa Department of Education to advocate for transgender students.

You can also donate to organizations like the Transgender Law Center and Trans Student Educational Resources that work to change the landscape for transgender individuals inside and outside the classroom. Finally, you can talk to transgender people to find out what their needs might be, whether it’s actually accompanying them to the bathroom or simply listening.

We cannot afford to ignore the federal government’s abject refusal to use its power to protect transgender children. Inside the classroom and beyond, transgender children deserve fundamental rights — even those as simple as the ability to safely use the bathroom.