Standing up for the rights of our children

Two devastating blows have just been dealt to the transgender community by the current presidential administration.

First, within 48 hours of Jeff Sessions being sworn in as Attorney General, the Department of Justice withdrew its request for a partial stay on an order against Obama administration guidance protecting transgender students from school discrimination and assuring restroom use according to their gender identity. That means they want Obama’s 2016 guidance to schools to remain blocked.

Second,* a couple of days later, they clarified this position by rescinding that guidance that schools are required to allow trans students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity in order to comply with Title IX. The law itself (Title IX) hasn’t changed, but the DOJ’s interpretation has. They believe student rights are a matter for state and local jurisdictions. Our transgender students’ rights, health and well-being are in peril.

As the parent of a transgender son, I lived through the many challenges that entails, in a society that is still largely uninformed and unaccepting of this variation of human being. In addition to figuring out how to help him physically, mentally, emotionally and socially, we had to send him to school, where we were to entrust his care for seven hours a day, five days a week, for one hundred eighty weeks.

This place that should have nurtured and encouraged this bright, kind, brave and strong student instead denied his truth, the most fundamental element of his being: his identity.

His school refused to call him by his new, legal name and affirmed gender, and threatened any staff member who did with termination. This was systemic bullying, every hour of every school day. He was denied the basic respect and dignity due to him as a student.

The daily denial of his true self took its toll on his mental health. It overshadowed the before and after school hours, and disrupted his sleep. His anxiety increased. After being screamed at in a restroom, he quit properly hydrating and using any restroom away from home to avoid traumatic encounters. This exacerbated his health conditions.

That school failed him mightily when he was most vulnerable and needed the most support. I don’t want to see this happen to any other student, ever.

I signed the Human Rights Campaign parents’ letter to President Trump – urging him to preserve the guidance on enforcing Title IX for transgender students in our nation’s schools – to join forces with other parents of transgender children to guarantee that our government will truly advocate for the rights of all students, especially the most marginalized.

As the letter states, “Like all parents, all we want is for our children to be healthy, safe, and loved. No young person should wake up in the morning fearful of the school day ahead.”

It did not appear to influence the President, but I would urge everyone to contact their school district and express support for the rights of transgender students and creating safe, welcoming schools and high quality education for all students. Inclusion of transgender students furthers this aim and benefits the individuals, their families, the school community and society as a whole by nurturing well-rounded, compassionate and confident citizens.

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