President Trump on Feb. 22 reversed former President Obama’s policy — issued last May — that allows transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity rather than biological sex.
New York City does allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, but many in Queens still feel outraged by the decision of the president. The move leaves how to handle the issue up to states and school districts.
“I think it’s really unfortunate and very disappointing that he has gone back on his word to the LGBT community, but particularly transgenders,” Councilman Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who is openly gay, said. “It’s absolutely disgraceful these transgender students are some of our most vulnerable in the school system and for President Trump to turn his back on students is terrible.”
In February 2014, Dromm’s office along with the city, created a set of guidelines to ensure transgender students may use the bathroom and locker room of their choice and be referred to by staff by their preferred pronouns and names.
“So in New York City those regulations will remain in place,” Dromm said. “It’s unfortunate that President Trump’s actions send the wrong message to the rest of the nation about rights of transgender students, and that’s what’s so disturbing.”
Pauline Park, a transgender activist in Queens, on the other hand, thinks there’s a danger to exaggerating the significance of the executive order despite its potential impacts.
“Trump’s administration is really reprehensible and despicable. It will only invite discrimination and harassment to trans students,” said Park, co-founder of the Queens Pride House. “It would be a mistake to think that this decision has enormous significance; the Supreme Court ruling will have much greater significance.”
The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on March 28 on a case involving a Virgina transgender high school student, born female, who has been barred from using the boys’ bathroom.
“The guidelines as written seemed hastily put together and not thoroughly thought through,” Park added. “Although they make a point to try and address nonbinary identities are based on a binary conception of gender identity. It’s problematic to the school-age population.”
Park explained some children know they are transgender at a young age while others take longer to explore their identity options.
Both situations, however, don’t mean they are certain or uncertain quite yet on how they choose to identify.
Regarding the misconceptions of the guidelines, Park said, “One of the misconceptions, from both sides, might be a trans student wants to be in an open area. I seriously doubt there are trans people that want that, that’s the opposite. They’re more concerned with their own privacy than anyone else.”
“We already knew that this administration did not stand with the LGBTQ+ community. But these actions targeting trans youth are especially cruel and demonstrate a fundamental lack of basic human compassion. Today, and every day, I stand with LGBTQ+ youth in demanding equal status under the law,” Councilman Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who is also openly gay, said in a statement.
The Legal Aid Society and the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys on Federal Revocation of Protections for Transgender Students said in a joint statement, “President Trump’s rollback of fundamental anti-discrimination protections for transgender students is callous and an affront to civil rights. Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise given [Education Secretary] Betsy Devos’ and [U.S. Attorney General] Jeff Sessions’ troubling track record on this issue, and general apathy for the vulnerable. This is more than an issue about restrooms, it is about the right of trans people to be safe and supported in all public spaces.”
They also went on to say that the White House “has made it abundantly clear that issues of equality are regretfully not a top priority.”
Amidst the tension surrounding the executive order amongst the LGBT community, Andres Duque from the Queens Pride House wants to remind people of the services it offers.
“I think at Queens Pride House, particularly for transgender, we are all united in making sure transgender clients we serve know we offer them a safe space and we’ll be actively working to protect them from being discriminated against as a citywide unit,” he said.