We learned yesterday that the Department of Education will no longer enforce Title IX to defend transgender students, with agreement from the new Secretary, Betsy DeVos. This decision comes under heavy pressure from Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice. The broad reaching effect of this choice goes much further than just bathrooms; this change ends all rights and protections afforded to transgender youth under Title IX.
We have assurances from Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley School Districts that their policies to protect transgender youth will remain in place. Additionally, in Colorado, we are lucky enough to have broad legal protections for our transgender youth under SB08-200, which prohibits any discrimination in housing and public accommodations (including schools) based on a person’s actual or perceived transgender identity. These protections are unequivocal and require ALL Colorado schools to continue protecting transgender youth, despite this change in federal policy.
If you are (or know) a transgender student who is the target of illegal anti-trans discrimination, reach out to us and we will advocate for you and connect you to resources to educate your school about their obligation to allow transgender students to use the safest restroom for their gender identity, update their school records to reflect their current name and gender, and protect transgender youth from bullying and harassment. You can access materials from One Colorado on how to best support trans students here: www.one-colorado.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/TransResourceGuide_2016.pdf.
Even with these protections, we know that trans youth are suffering greatly. The 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) conducted in all participating Colorado High Schools found that transgender youth face severe challenges and increased risk, when compared to their cisgender (non-transgender) peers. According to this data, trans youth in Colorado are over 5 times more likely to have attempted suicide (35.5% versus 7% of the cisgender youth population). Our trans students are almost 7 times more likely to report skipping school because they felt unsafe (31.5% vs 4.6%) and almost a third of trans youth (31%) reported being injured or threatened with a weapon on school property, compared to 4.8% of the cisgender population. You can view the rest of the results here: www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/PF_Youth_HKCS-Exec-Summary-2015.pdf.
As the trans community comes under direct attack, we need all cisgender allies to stand with us. Be vocal in your support of transgender people in all areas of your life. Reach out to your transgender friends and family today to assure them that you are with them in this fight. Stand with our transgender community and continue doing the difficult work of addressing issues of class, race, and immigration status which compound upon transgender people, especially trans people of color. Speak out when you hear transphobic statements or “jokes” at every possible opportunity. Step in if you see verbal or physical harassment of transgender people. Fund organizations that advocate for and support transgender people. The work of validating and defending the trans community can be unpopular, difficult, and exhausting, but we cannot allow our smallest and most vulnerable community to be erased.
Cisgender LGB people make up approximately 10% of the US population, which means that most people, even social conservatives, at least know one person who is lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Transgender people, conversely, are only 1% or 2% of our population. According to GLAAD, only 16% of people claim to have met a transgender person, which makes it innumerably easier to target, isolate, and eradicate transgender people through policy and practice.
We were consistently told to “wait and see”. We were told that our political climate was more accepting now than it’s ever been, and that raising the alarm about transgender rights was causing undue stress. We were told by most of our allies and friends that we shouldn’t incite panic through our vocal fear of being targeted by legalized bigotry.
We waited. We saw. And we all need to listen to transgender people now more than ever. Transgender rights are human rights. Transgender people face dire consequences from the political rhetoric that paints them as predators and deceivers. Transgender people die because of a lack of acceptance, inadequate support, and inability to access basic services due to policies targeted at the trans community out of fear, ignorance, and malice.
We are facing a crisis, not only due to conservative bigotry, but also because of inaction at the local and national level to protect trans people. Politicians, LGBT organizations, and well-intentioned allies have a long history of excluding the transgender community from the political and leadership spheres. That legacy must stop today. We must promote transgender leadership, fund transgender work, and make space for transgender voices if we ever want these outcomes to change.
Through our advocacy, trainings, and robust transgender programing at Out Boulder County, we are addressing the difficult reality that trans people survive every day. Your allyship is critical to protecting transgender youth today, and all transgender people for the next four years. Redouble your efforts to be a strong, vocal ally for the trans community. This political climate is, unfortunately, likely to get worse long before it gets better.
Sara Connell, Education and Services Manager
Mardi Moore, Executive Director