By Rebecca Mead February 23, 2017

When historians write their accounts of the Trump era—assuming the practice of historical scholarship survives it—a small but significant portion of those chronicles will be concerned with the bewildering phenomenon of grown Republican men policing the bathroom habits of vulnerable teen-agers. With the announcement today that Trump has rescinded a civil-rights rule put in place under President Obama, providing transgender students in public schools with the right to use the bathroom of their choice, the President and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, have scored a political victory. Voters who believe that a hazard is presented by, for example, a transgender eighth grader using the bathroom corresponding to her gender identity will be satisfied by the new policy, which states that local districts will now be at liberty to make their own policies regarding who gets to go to the bathroom where. Schools will, presumably, be able to insist that transgender students use the bathroom that is opposite to their gender identity, or—as is often proposed as a reasonable, middle-ground solution—a separate bathroom altogether, such as one intended for teachers.

Reports emerged yesterday suggesting that Betsy DeVos, Trump’s recently appointed and highly controversial Education Secretary, had misgivings about rescinding or revising the policy as it stood. A story in the Times reported that DeVos had expressed concern that rolling back the recently acquired rights of transgender students would open such students up to potential harm, and noted that she had been “quietly supportive of gay rights” for some time. According to the report, DeVos expressed her reservations to Sessions, who could not be persuaded, and sought out Trump’s support for his own position. The President reportedly told DeVos that she could get onboard or she could resign. DeVos chose to keep her job, and signed off on the new rules.

At the same time, the Times reported, she insisted that the letter rescinding the policy should incorporate wording that all students have the right “to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment,” and that the department’s Office of Civil Rights would remain committed to investigating claims of discrimination, harassment, and bullying. This account was greeted in some quarters with something approaching approbation: “Betsy DeVos tried to do something good, but of course Trump overruled her” was one take, in The New Republic.

But trying to do something good—if that is, indeed, what DeVos tried to do—deserves no praise when the end result is to be complicit in something bad. The Times story noted that DeVos had expressed concerns about high rates of suicide among transgender students. She is right to be worried: the suicide rate in the transgender population is significantly higher than that in the population at large; according to an oft-cited study published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, forty per cent of transgender adults have attempted suicide.

At the same time, suicidal leanings are by no means an inevitable consequence of being transgender. A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics shows that transgender youth who have received the support of their families and communities through their transitions suffer no greater rates of depression than does the general population. In other words, if trans kids and teens are not made to feel isolated—if they are not singled out as different—they have every chance of doing just fine, or at least as well as any other teen-age kid.

One good way to make sure trans kids aren’t isolated or singled out is to insure that they have the freedom to use whichever bathroom they feel comfortable using. As anyone who has ever been a kid or a teen will remember, school bathrooms are not merely places in which to answer the call of nature. They are sites of social interaction, where gossip is gossiped and confidences exchanged. To remove a student from that community is to stigmatize him or her, as Nicole Maines, a transgender advocate whose family successfully sued the state of Maine for violation of her civil rights, has eloquently argued. When she was required to use the staff bathroom, Maines wrote in Time magazine, “I was isolated and effectively classified as ‘other.’ My school and community began to acknowledge me as being different and treated me like a second-class citizen.”

Being a teen is hard enough, but being a trans teen should be no harder than usual. The new ruling fails to take account of what common humanity should acknowledge: that within a school bathroom or outside it, a transgender student is much more likely to be the victim of bullying than to be its perpetrator. If DeVos really has concerns about the safety of transgender kids, her capitulation to Sessions and Trump is all the more reprehensible. Insisting that, in rescinding the rule, the Department of Education should profess a commitment to rooting out discrimination and bullying amounts to nothing but empty words, if—as is the case—the intended point of the new rules is to enable the imposition of a particularly cruel, petty, and humiliating structural discrimination.

The U.S. Department of Justice, fewer than 48 hours after Sen. Jeff Sessions was confirmed as attorney general, began backing out of its support of Title IX protections for transgender students.

In a brief filed Friday, the DOJ withdrew its request for a partial stay on a Texas court ruling that prohibited the federal government from enforcing guidance from the Obama Administration that saw anti-transgender discrimination as covered by Title IX prohibitions on sex-based discrimination in schools. That stay sought to narrow the scope of the ruling to only apply to the 12 states that participated in the lawsuit in some way: Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, Arizona, Maine, and Mississippi.

The oral arguments for the partial stay, originally requested in November 2016, were scheduled for Valentine’s Day — February 14. The brief cancelled those oral arguments and signaled that the Trump administration could drop the appeal altogether.

“Defendants-appellants hereby withdraw their pending November 23, 2016 motion for partial stay pending appeal. The parties jointly move to remove from the Court’s calendar the February 14, 2017 oral argument currently scheduled for that motion,” the brief said. “The parties are currently considering how best to proceed in this appeal.”

While Sessions’ name does not appear on the brief, the reversal comes fewer than 48 hours after his confirmation. Some see this change of course as a direct reflection of Sessions’ political agenda. The newly minted attorney general has a record of opposing LGBTQ rights, earning him a zero from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). He also opposed hate crimes legislation while in the Senate, because he doesn’t think LGBTQ people “face that kind of discrimination.”

“After being on the job for less than 48 hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled his intent to undermine the equal dignity of transgender students,” HRC President Chad Griffin told the Washington Blade. “Transgender students are entitled to the full protection of the United States Constitution and our federal nondiscrimination laws. It is heartbreaking and wrong that the agency tasked with enforcing civil rights laws would instead work to subvert them for political interests. President Trump must immediately reverse course and direct the DOJ to uphold guidance protecting transgender students.”

A Trump reversal doesn’t seem likely, however, since removing these protections was among the president’s campaign promises.

Still, while the order blocks the federal government from enforcing Obama’s directive that schools permit transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender, the Washington Blade notes that it doesn’t necessarily prevent transgender plaintiffs from successfully claiming discrimination under Title IX on their own.

A New Jersey boy has become the first openly transgender member of the Boy Scouts one week after the Boy Scouts of America changed its policy to allow transgender children to join the organization.

"I am accepted," Joe Maldonado said Tuesday night as he put on a Cub Scout uniform.

The Record reported (http://bit.ly/2lqlgPh ) the 9-year-old joined Pack 20 in Maplewood following the organization's decision to allow transgender scouts. Maldonado was banned from a Cub Scout group in Secaucus.

"This is fun; I'm so proud," he said during the meeting.

Scout leader Kyle Hackler taught Maldonado the Cub Scout salute and oath.

"This means you're the same as Scouts all over the world," Hackler told Maldonado.

The scout's mother, Kristie, said she was "proud of the fight" she had put up after the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts last year told her Joe would not be allowed to continue to be a member of Pack 87 in Secaucus.

The Boy Scouts changed their policy of referring to the gender on birth certificates to determine eligibility last week after Maldonado's story gained national attention. Previously, the Boy Scouts overturned bans against gay scouts and scouting leaders.

The organization released a statement welcoming the Maldonado family. "Moving forward, the BSA will continue to work to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible," the statement said.

Maldonado told the newspaper she had decided to bring her son to Maplewood because she did not want to go back to Secaucus, where she said scouting officials told her some parents had complained last year.

In December 2016, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released its biennial "2015 National School Climate Survey,” its flagship report on the experiences of LGBTQ students “including the extent of the challenges that they face at school and the school-based resources that support [their] well-being.”

They also produce state specific snapshots for 30 states, including Connecticut. This provides organizations like Triangle Community Center (TCC) with a concrete understanding of where we are and where we need to go locally as allies to LGBTQ youth.

Good news first…

In 2015, LGBTQ students in Connecticut typically reported having at least a handful of supportive staff and access to an active GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) where they could find support and community in their peers. 

As an organization, staff at TCC meet and collaborate with educators dedicated to the success and well-being of their students all of the time. What is heard most often, though, is that there is still work to be done. GLSEN’s snapshot of LGBTQ students in Connecticut supports this call to action. Notable findings in the 2015 report are eye-opening and are as follows. . .

“The majority of LGBTQ students in Connecticut regularly heard anti-LGBT remarks” including 14% of students who heard school staff make homophobic remarks and 29% of students who heard negative remarks about someone’s gender expression.*

“Most LGBTQ students in Connecticut had been victimized at school,” and half never reported the incident. Unfortunately, only 32% of those students who did make the often difficult decision to report an incident said it resulted in impactful staff intervention.*

Also notable, GLSEN found that the majority of transgender students (62%) had been unable to use the school restroom that aligned with their gender.*

These statistics are important reminders to adult allies and educators that inclusive legislation and policy on the state level and even the presence of an active GSA on campus are often not enough to ensure the lived equality of students in Connecticut schools.

GLSEN also includes in their biennial report key recommendations for how to implement impactful change in schools. For Connecticut, GLSEN recommends the implementations of comprehensive anti-bullying and harassment policies, the support of GSAs, professional development for staff on LGBTQ student issues, and increased access to LGBT-inclusive curricular resources.

The Connecticut sample was majority White/European American and suburban with only roughly a third of students of color submitting responses to the survey. Statistics show LGBTQ people of color face higher rates of discrimination across the board**. Thus, we must understan

Our work as allies to LGBTQ youth is imperative. Through its Cultural Competency program and youth programming, TCC staff are able to hear from students and dedicated educators every day. These competency trainings offer educators a chance to become acquainted with complex understandings of LGBTQ identities and ways to relate to and support the experiences of students in the classroom, hallways, and through existing counseling and health services.

Being an ally to LGBTQ youth can be an act as small as passing along information about local LGBTQ-affirming resources such as TCC or Circle Care Center (CCC) to people who may not know these resources exist to support LGBTQ individuals.

 

 

President Trump has accidentally helped fund an LGBT rights group that has threatened to battle his administration’s agenda.

The incoming President commissioned a special cake for his inauguration on Friday from Buttercream Bakeshop in Washington DC.

The cake, which appeared to be a direct replica of Barack Obama’s inauguration cake, is thought to have cost around $1000 – and was personally cut by Trump and VP Mike Pence.

The bakery, owned by Tiffany MacIsaac, confirmed in a statement that they had made the cake – and that all of the profits will be going to the Human Rights Campaign, to fight for LGBT equality.

They wrote: “Excited to share the cake we got to make for one of last night’s inaugural balls. While we most love creating original designs, when we are asked to replicate someone else’s work we are thrilled when it is a masterpiece like this one. [Celebrity baker] Duff Goldman originally created this for Obama’s inauguration 4 years ago and this years committee commissioned us to re-create it.

" The Best part is all the profits are being donated to Human Rights Campaign, one of our favorite charities who we have loved working with over the years.

“Because basic human rights are something every man, woman and child~ straight, gay or the rainbow in between~ deserve!”

HRC has vowed to resist any attempt by the Trump administration to pare back LGBT rights protections enacted by Barack Obama, while the group has also vowed to battle the anti-LGBT First Amendment Defence Act, which Trump has pledged to sign.

Commenting after the inauguration, HRC President Chad Griffin said: “When Donald Trump took the oath of office, he vowed to be a servant for all Americans. We will hold him to that oath.

“It is more important now than ever before for us to organize, mobilize, and fight in solidarity against hate and any attempts to roll back the rights of LGBTQ people.

“No matter who sits in the Oval Office, HRC won’t back down an inch in the fight for full equality and the equal dignity of each and every American.”

He added: “If President Trump truly believes in uniting the country, now is the time to make clear whether he will be an ally to the LGBTQ community in our struggle for full equality. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect our community and our progress.”

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