By Eetika Kapoor
Giving in to the social conservatives of the White House, Trump withdrew landmark Obama guidelines meant for the protection of transgender students. These guidelines allowed transgender students to use facilities of bathrooms and restrooms in accordance to the gender they identify with.
The decision was backed by the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as the Education Minister Betsy DeVos. Betsy DeVos was reportedly reluctant to give in to the removal of protection. The federal law in question, known as Title IX, bans sex discrimination in education. But it remains unsettled whether Title IX protections extend to a person’s gender identity. This came into the limelight when Gavin Grimm, a seventeen-year-old student from Virginia, was not allowed to use the boys’ washroom despite permission from the school board.
The need for Federal reforms
Numerous reports and studies have claimed that almost 1.5 million students in America identify themselves as transgender. More than 41% of transsexual people attempt suicide in their lifetime. This usually stems from bullying, harassment and usage of terms like “freak” and “tranny” which make them susceptible to ostracisation from the society. Conforming to the limited boundary of ‘gender’ is problematic. If federal law does not protect the vulnerable, they become easy targets. The case is not just about access to washrooms, but it represents the guarantee of security they can feel in public spaces.
Transgender Europe, the human rights advocacy group, documented 2,264 reported killings of trans and gender-diverse people worldwide between 1st January 2008 and 30th September 2016. In 2016, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) reported the deaths of 27 transgender people in the United States – most in one year. Clearly, injustice does not stop at jotting down the legislative processes.
The ‘southern’ opinion
The legislation was opposed earlier as well. North Carolina banned the prospect of an alternative bathroom on the grounds that male perpetrators will claim to be transgender and use it as an opportunity to assault women. Many such incidents have already been reported. But Ms DeVos has been clear that the removal of federal protection should not be a matter of security for trans-people. She stated that the education council would not tolerate any case of harassment or bullying.
Assessing the international impact
Things may spiral out of control with the removal of protection for transgenders. In a unipolar society where the United States decides the order of the world, this decision would send ripples across trans-communities.
In 2014, the Supreme Court of India, in a landmark vote, granted the country’s ‘hijra’ community (transgender people), and those classified as third-gender the right to self-identify without sex reassignment surgery. Under the ruling; transgender people are allowed equal access to education, healthcare, employment, and protection from discrimination.
But is that enough to combat the merciless flesh trade still prevalent in the nation? In a country like India, where trans people are feared, what do these laws stand for? Politics and decision making have been out of their reach, and they strive for the validation of their existence. There is a vast array of genderqueer people who stand unexplored and are hushed into silence.
In a report by the New York Times, Trump was quoted saying: “There’s a big move to create new bathrooms. Foremost it would be discriminatory and second, unbelievably expensive for business and the country.” His Republican rival Ted Cruz sent out a critical message on Twitter: “Common sense: Grown men shouldn’t be in bathrooms with little girls.”
In perilous times like these, Trump’s decision might blur the thin, but imperative line between gender identity and gender equality. Social preparedness goes hand in hand with political legislation.
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