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Kids Know Their Gender, According To Science, & We Need to Protect Their Rights

On Tuesday, The Hill reported that President Trump has approved a plan for the Departments of Education and Justice to send letters to schools reversing guidance that transgender students be able to use the restroom consistent with their gender identities. Last year, the Obama Administration issued guidance to all public school districts in the United States, directing them to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their gender identities. So, Trump's directive would be a reversal of those guidelines. But Obama's legislation wasn't just forcing a progressive agenda down people's throats: it was based on science and psychology. Kids know their gender, according to science, and we need to protect their rights, especially in the face of this news.

According to The Advocate, Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Washington Blade that sources have told her the departments in question will send a letter Tuesday withdrawing the guidelines. The publication was not able to secure comment on the report from the White House or either of the departments involved. Keisling is quoted as saying:

I’m angry; I’m outraged. This is about kids who just want to go to school who just want to be themselves, and to hear the president a week or two ago talk about how supportive he is of LGBT people, it’s just outrageous that he go after trans kids this way.

The White House hasn't responded to Romper's request for comment.

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This reversal of guidelines for trans students is a blow to advocates working for the rights of transgender individuals, and children in particular. Plenty of stories and studies have made it clear that gender isn't an unknown to kids; in fact, children unquestionably know what gender means, and are aware of the limits gender places on them.

Vanessa LoBue, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University Newark, has said, "children don’t begin to notice and adopt gender-stereotyped behaviours (e.g., preferring colours like pink or blue) until the age of two or three." Some research suggests that, "children’s concept of gender develops gradually between the ages of three and five. After the age of five, most children believe that outward changes in clothing or hairstyle don’t constitute a change in gender."

According to Vox, a study from the TransYouth Project found that trans children as young as 5 responded to "psychological gender-association tests" — which assess how one views themselves within gender roles — as consistently as kids who don't identify as trans. In other words, kids are pretty sure of their preferred gender pretty early on after a few years of navigating a world in which gender norms are encouraged and enforced.

Children figuring out their gender identity need to be supported, not shamed. This reported reversal by the Trump Administration in regards to bathroom use by trans students in schools may make kids feel, at best, conflicted about their identity. At worst, it could lead to more dire results.

A study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute found that 41 percent of transgender individuals try to kill themselves at some point during their lifetimes. And in particular, one study using data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found a correlation between the high suicide rates of transgender teens and bathroom restrictions for transgender teens.

The Trump Administration undoing the guidelines previously set forth by the Obama Administration creates discrimination that could actually lead to trans kids hurting themselves. If kids are aware of their gender early on, and they just want to use the bathroom that best matches their identity, what's the point in forcing them not to do so?