On Feb. 22, President Donald Trump informed the nation that the federal government will no longer defend transgender children's Title IX rights. The new order takes away any guidance on Title IX protections as it relates to transgender children in schools. The federal backtrack on Title IX has real-life consequences for transgender children, and parents of those children are reacting to the reversal of federal protections openly and unapologetically.
As part of the leadership team of Trans-Youth Education Support, I've been communicating with other parents of transgender children since news of the decision broke. It's important to acknowledge the privilege this particular group of parents have. First, most of us are located in Colorado, a state with solid transgender rights protections that existed before President Obama's original guidance. Second, many of us are able to activate and advocate on behalf of our children whose own young communities "get it." Though it's a risk to do so in this political climate, we are relatively sure that, given the aforementioned privileges, we'll be safe in doing so. Still, that does little to quell the deep, nauseating anxiety for our children, and for all the other families who can't use their voices. That does nothing to help all the children in states that demonize them like Texas, North Carolina, and Florida (among others) whose caregivers can't just up and move.
When legislators say they won't protect a traditionally marginalized group's civil rights, they give a pass to all those who would spew hatred. As parents of transgender kids, the following comments reveal the strength of parental love's ability to move mountains (or mountains of bigoted hate, in this case):
Caitlin is the parent to elementary student.
I feel like it's some evil plan to try to induce suicide. This decision is 'a covert way' to tell trans folx to go back into hiding and remain constrained by the binary. I feel it's a public display of trying to keep us in line, [and] to police bigotry (make sure haters keep hating) and reinvigorate it.
It's the administration whispering in our kids' ears — the same kids we love deeply — 'you don't matter.' It's that message that cuts so deeply.
Erik is the parent of a 19 year old.
The Trump administration is trying to make the point that this is a 'states rights' issue. But, when the question is civil rights, 'states rights' aren't allowed to discriminate against people... we can't let states choose to discriminate against transgender people now.
The most horrible thing about this is the message it gives to our transgender kids. It's the administration whispering in our kids' ears — the same kids we love deeply — 'you don't matter.' It's that message that cuts so deeply.
Alba* is the parent of a middle-schooler.
My fear is that it contributes to more confusion around supporting trans kids in schools and that kids who live in places who are historically anti-LGBT (like Arizona and Texas and all the other states who filed suits to fight Obama's guidance) are put at immediate risk because — even though the Title IX law is there and still protects kids — parents would have to pursue a lawsuit in cases where the schools will not follow that guidance.
There are people who are fighting it and they just got a go ahead from the current administration to do what they want, rather than standing up for trans kids, like Obama's Department of Education and Department of Justice did. The Trump administration is telling trans kids and their families that they are on their own to fight for their child's rights. The message and possible effect is extremely damaging.
I want to sweep them all up and tell them they are beautiful and perfect and strong and their families (not just biological) are going to fight like hell to make sure they are safe and treated equally.
Lynda* is the parent of the college student.
Basically, [this has] been the attitude of his entire administration: If you like it so much, you take care of it. It's crap. The burden of government is to protect its most vulnerable citizens and [Trump] keeps throwing them under the bus.
Karen is the parent of a 16-year-old transgender daughter.
My daughter, Shannon, transitioned when she was 7 years old at a time when no one had heard of transgender kids. Our conservative community was unable to support her, so she was not provided with the civil rights and protections described in the federal guidance that was withdrawn this week. Isolated and failing academically, she was in a crisis by the time we moved. Our new school district in Boulder County, Colorado was much more open to her needs, and we were allowed to help develop the district policy that's [now] included in the the federal guidance. Under that policy, Shannon has been able to fully integrate into her school community.
When Shannon knows the school leadership is committed to providing her a place where she feels equal to her peers, it helps her to stop expecting humiliation as a daily part of her school day and allows her the space to focus on the things that matter, like learning and friendships.
Knowing their child feels safe and protected at school is the minimum any parent would want for their child. At 16, she’s not only safe, she’s thriving. She gets good grades, enjoys friendships, and works after school in order to buy herself a car. Shannon did not lose any of her protections this week. Our state and school district are committed to creating a safe place to learn for all kids. Unfortunately, the rollback of the guidance still has had an impact. Shannon has started to notice a deterioration in the conversations at school and just last night she was subjected to anti-transgender hate speech online by her fellow students. We’ve been working to protect Shannon in her school environment for 10 years now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: The principal makes all the difference. When Shannon knows the school leadership is committed to providing her a place where she feels equal to her peers, it helps her to stop expecting humiliation as a daily part of her school day and allows her the space to focus on the things that matter, like learning and friendships.
Students in the school also know that they'll be held accountable for their actions and they step up to reflect the commitment of the leadership. In our last school district, the principal was committed to students in his care, but district leadership wasn’t able to meet her needs, mostly out of fear of community backlash. National guidance could have helped them stand up for Shannon’s rights. Instead, they failed her. For years she had to work hard to overcome trauma and to make up for the lost learning. Rolling back the guidelines is a failure of leadership on a national level. Even in school districts that are models for transgender protections, students are feeling the impacts.
Sarah* is the parent of a elementary student.
Honestly, my heart sank and my stomach rolled when I heard the news. We are lucky that we live in a state that has protections for gender identity already on the books and my child's school has been supportive, but there are so many kids and families that are not in our position. As a mom, I am terrified for those kids. I want to sweep them all up and tell them they are beautiful and perfect and strong and their families (not just biological) are going to fight like hell to make sure they are safe and treated equally.
The love of a parent doesn't just move mountains, it shifts galaxies.
Remi is the parent of an elementary student.
I'm extremely disappointed but not surprised that the Trump administration did this. It's going to make things so much harder for my kid, especially if the schools here completely get rid of any inclusiveness they had before or our governor decides to make it illegal for schools to be inclusive to transgender kids.
My child should be able to go to school and not have to worry about the bathroom. Cisgender kids don't have to, so transgender kids shouldn't either.
Reaca is parent to 7 year old.
The reality is that even though some of us live in states that protect our children, none of the parents I spoke to are sure their children are safe in Trump's America. I am one of those parents. But I will not stand down. I will not shut up. Parents fighting for the rights of their children to exist in public spaces will never give in to exhaustion. We will never be shamed about our passion for what opponents derisively call "identity politics."
The integrity and compassion within this parent community is hard to ignore. All of these parents are committed to continuing the fight for rights and against hate for all transgender children (and adults) throughout our country. This roll back changes only the amount of work we have left to do.
The love of a parent doesn't just move mountains, it shifts galaxies.
*Names have been changed.