In a controversial move, last week, President Donald Trump reversed his predecessor’s guidelines allowing transgender students in public schools to use the bathroom of their choice.
The removal of federal protection sparked nationwide protests, with LGBT+ advocates denouncing the decision as immoral and unconstitutional under Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in education. Still, it remains unclear whether the law extends to a person’s gender identity.
“As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level,” the White House released in a statement to media outlets.
English teacher Kenley Smith says she feels for transgender students, but she hopes young people get even more involved in the political process.
“Maybe President Trump’s actions will finally make people speak up,” she said. “There is hope that the drastic actions undertaken will bring more attention to LGBT+ struggles.”
Alexis Ifill ’17 feels strongly that the absence of gender-fluid bathrooms denormalizes gender fluidity and trans youth. “It’s not fair for these kids not not grow up with the rights to use a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity,” she says.
Ifill also supports gender-neutral bathrooms, which, she says, “alleviates insecurity and anxiety about where to go to the bathroom.” In fact, in a Feb. 26 Washington Post column, Thomas Lewis, an 18-year old South Dakota high school senior, directly addressed Ifill’s concern.
“The counselor has advised me not to use the men’s room,” Lewis writes. “Because I’m male, the thought of using the girls’ bathroom makes me upset and uncomfortable, as if I’m doing something that just doesn’t feel right. As a result, I am forced to leave school at lunch to use the bathroom at home.”
After several years of making “huge leaps forward” with LGBT+ rights, Anja Westhues ’20 says, “it feels like much of the hard work is being undone.”
“It was ill-advised for Trump to revoke Obama’s ruling on trans students in public school bathrooms,” says Stephen Moreno Jimenez ’20 says. “This will leave a large, negative impact on the acceptance of trans youth and the LGBT+ community.”
According to Upper School Head Josh Neudel, several all-gender bathrooms are planned to be included in the new Chase addition. Zack Rocklin-Waltch ’17, who leads the Gender Sexuality Acceptance club, says that all-gender bathrooms are becoming more common in public places and colleges, and that “it’s an awesome idea” for Brimmer to follow suit.