Though Obama’s bathroom guidelines were largely symbolic, there are real consequences for the students who just lost their protections under Trump
By Nico Lang
March 1, 2017
When Drew Adams came out to his family as transgender two years ago, it was no big deal. The only problem his brother, Carter, had with it was that he was worried Drew would start wearing his shoes. Carter only has two pairs, and he didn’t want Drew borrowing them.
“I don’t care as long as he doesn’t mess with my stuff,” Drew remembers his brother saying. “It doesn’t matter if I have an older brother or an older sister, but leave my stuff alone.”
Drew lives in a heavily Republican district of Florida where a majority of voters went for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. While his family and friends have been supportive, the 16-year-old says it’s been difficult to be treated with respect at his school. Drew came out before his freshman year and began using the men’s restroom on campus. After two months of absolutely no trouble, he says he was pulled into the guidance counselor’s office after someone filed an anonymous complaint. Drew says administrators asked him to use the gender-neutral bathroom in the nurse’s office instead.
“It was very alienating,” Drew says. “It made it very clear that the school saw me a lesser person and not the same as my peers, and therefore, they treated me differently.”
In an email to Rolling Stone, the school called its policies as “lawful and reasonable.”
After back and forth with the district, Drew and his mother, Erica Kasper, filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. An investigation into the school found violations, and the OCR drew up a resolution agreement – a set of proposed changes the school should make based on the findings – but, according to Kasper, the agreement has not yet been signed. (The OCR was not able to provide comment by press time.)
Drew hoped that the year and a half of lobbying for his rights would pay off before he graduates – and now that Trump is president, his family believes that’s unlikely to happen.
Last week, the Departments of Justice and Education announced that they would be revoking guidance issued by the Obama administration last year allowing trans students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that most closely correspond with their gender identity. Although the federal policy was non-binding, it advised teachers and administrators on best practices when dealing with trans students – simple things like referring to LGBT youth by their preferred name and pronoun.
“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students.”
But as trans students and their parents told Rolling Stone the night of the announcement, allowing local districts to handle the matter has already been a nightmare for many students in areas that have yet to catch up to recent advances in LGBT tolerance and understanding. Taking away these guidelines, they say, will further an environment where kids are bullied in schools, targeted by other students and denied the ability to comfortably go to the bathroom. While some might call the guidance – and its revocation – largely symbolic, this decision will make it more difficult for trans teens to fight the discrimination they face every day.