By Sara Karlovitch

On Feb. 22, President Trump rescinded former President Obama’s executive order that requires public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, taking away any federal protection the students had under the prior administration.

This order from the president comes in a time when more and more states are introducing legislation that would prevent transgender people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Twelve states are considering legislation restricting what public facilities transgender individuals use, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

Major human rights organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have condemned the bathroom bills and strongly support Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school senior who was denied access to the male bathroom at his public school in Gloucester County, Virginia. Grimm is currently suing the school board and the case has made it’s way up to the Supreme Court. The ACLU filed the case. 

Transgender activist Caitlyn Jenner, a long time Republican and Trump supporter, said in a video she would “see Trump in court” and called the order a “disaster.” The country remains deeply divided over bathroom bills, with 46 percent of Americans believing transgender people should be required to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender they are assigned at birth, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll. 57 percent said which bathroom a student uses should be up to local and state government.

Many supporters of bathroom bills say it’s not about prejudice, but about safety. They claim the bill is meant to stop the assault of women and girls in public restrooms. However, there is very little evidence of a transgender person assaulting someone in the bathroom.

One report found 70 percent of transgender people living in the D.C. area were assaulted or harassed while using a public bathroom. Many survivors said problems arise because “they don’t look like they belong,” in the bathroom of their gender assigned at birth.

Opponents of bathroom bills say that it’s not about gender at all, but about segregation. They argue it’s a way to keep a portion of the population apart from everyone else, to marginalize them. They argue that the bills aren’t about protection, it’s the exact opposite. Bathroom bills, many argue, are meant to oppress and discriminate against a vulnerable population, to keep them voiceless. The bills aren’t born out of concern for women and children, but of fear.
A protest sign argued: “It’s not about bathrooms, like it was never about water fountains.”  

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of David D’s Flickr account.

Sara Karlovitch is a freshman journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at skarlovi@terpmail.umd.edu.

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