Feb 23, 2017
In this op-ed, Sarah McBride — the national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, and first openly transgender person to speak at a major party convention — has a message to share with transgender students in the wake of Donald Trump revoking guidance that let transgender students to use the bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity at public schools.
To the trans students wondering about their place in this country: I know you may feel alone right now. There is no question — any rollback of transgender rights is a disgraceful setback. But I want you to know that whatever happens in Washington, you are loved and you matter. No presidency, no discriminatory action, no hateful bill can change those facts.
The rescinding of protective guidance for our nation’s schools on the inclusion of transgender students is a heartbreaking decision. And after hearing the news, you may be fearful of what the future will bring and questioning whether the heart of this country is big enough to love you, too. Many of you may be scared for your safety and concerned about the message this sends to bullies in classrooms, neighborhoods and, even, state legislatures. Those are understandable fears. And to be totally honest, as a transgender person myself, I’ve shared those fears at times, too. I know it’s hard to make sense of all of this. You are just trying to go to school and these politicians keep finding new ways to make your lives harder. But I want you to know that regardless of who is in the White House — and no matter what steps he takes to roll back our progress — millions of Americans stand with you.
And you know better than most people that treating trans students with dignity and respect doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. And while bullying and discrimination remain far too common, more and more friends, families, and faculty members are welcoming transgender young people with broad smiles and open hearts.
Despite the exceptions, schools across the country have been welcoming and affirming transgender young people for years, and in some cases decades. Many of you find yourselves in school districts in cities like Fort Worth, Texas, and Minneapolis, Minnesota — places that have already adopted inclusive school policies or in one of the 20 states plus Washington DC that have statewide non-discrimination protections for transgender people. Even without this guidance, those clear policies can and should continue. As will the court cases and rulings that have overwhelmingly found that trans people, including trans students, are protected under federal civil rights law. In fact, a young trans boy from Virginia named Gavin Grimm, who is facing discrimination from his local school board, is courageously leading this fight. His case comes before the Supreme Court this spring.
Unfortunately, like Gavin, some of you may live in districts that resist your rights and try to deny your dignity. Others may live in states that have passed or are considering passing vile, anti-transgender laws. This guidance was an important layer of security and support in navigating the frequently harsh environments encountered by transgender young people. The rescinding of that guidance is a cruel and mean-spirited attack, but it is far from the end of this fight.
It can all seem like so much. From bills like North Carolina’s HB2 to this most recent action by President Trump, it’s easy to get demoralized. It’s easy to think that as transgender people or as young people that your voice doesn’t matter. But it does.
Throughout our country, we’ve seen the power of one voice to change a school, a home, or a workplace. Through your example, you are opening hearts, changing minds and helping to build an alliance of allies that is ready to speak out and act up.
And the bullies, they see that. They see our power in living our truth and in changing the world through our authenticity. Make no mistake, you are powerful. We are powerful. And, together, we are unstoppable.
With love and solidarity, Sarah McBride