While 2016 has ushered in a disappointing escalation of anti-trans rhetoric, there have been some steps forward as well. This month, in particular, has seen historic momentum in the fight for trans rights.
For starters, the federal government releasedguidelines for public schools on their obligations when it comes to protecting the rights of transgender students. What the guidelines boil down to: discriminating against transgender students is against the law.
Later that same day, the government announced that transgender people cannot be denied medical care, including care related to gender transition, under the Affordable Care Act.
And finally, the government announced it would challenge North Carolina's anti-transgender law in federal court. That's the law that would force transgender people to stop using the bathrooms they having been using - without incident - for years, and to start using a bathroom that does not correspond with who they are. These so-called "bathroom bills" are not about protecting children, and they aren't really even about bathrooms. As ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio wrote recently, they are about "expelling trans people from public life."
The Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News have both weighed in against these anti-trans bills, and their editorials are worth a read:
From the Portland Press Herald:
And sexual predators did not use the laws as “cover” to gain access to bathrooms where there would be children or members of the opposite sex. In fact, “spying” on people in bathrooms is against the law whatever your sex or gender identity, and regardless of the laws covering bathroom access.
These problems only existed in the minds of people ignorant and uneasy when it comes to gender identity, and unwilling to learn more, and the politicians happy to exploit that fear and unfamiliarity.
These problems weren’t real when Nicole Maines of Orono fought her fight for equality. They weren’t real when states began living under laws that protected transgender people from discrimination.
And they won’t become real now that Obama issued his directive that public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity (clarifying the stance of his administration, not creating a new law as some of his detractors have claimed).
And from the Bangor Daily News:
In fact, transgender people, especially teenagers, are the ones more likely to need protection.
The suicide risk for transgender people is nearly 10 times that of the general population. More than 40 percent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Nearly three-quarters of LGBT youth report being verbally harassed, and one-third report having been physically harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a 2013 survey by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. More than a third of these students avoid gender-segregated spaces in schools, such as bathrooms and locker rooms.
These are real problems that demand real solutions.