Donald Trump announced Wednesday that his administration would be rescinding Obama-era protections that were intended to protect transgender children in American schools. The most well-known such protection enabled transgender students to use the school bathroom that corresponded with their gender identity, rather than the one they were assigned at birth. The new rules, implemented after a campaign in which Donald Trump actually promised to "fight for" the LGBTQ community, could endanger the safety and even the very lives of transgender children across the country.
The rationale behind these invasive rules? Many conservatives invoke the right-wing myth of sexual predators sneaking into women's restrooms. For the record, exactly zero trans people have ever attacked someone in a public bathroom. They're far more likely to be victims: a recent UCLA survey found that 70 percent of trans people have encountered harassment or violence while trying to use a public restroom.
Suicide attempt rates amongst the transgender community are tragically high: over 40 percent of trans people attempt suicide, a rate often attributed to the intense alienation and bullying suffered by members of that community. Denial of bathroom access contributes to that sense of alienation: a study in the Journal of Homosexuality found a "significant relationship" between denial of access to bathrooms and suicidality.
In defense of one of the nation's most vulnerable communities, protesters turned out in force to the Stonewall Inn in New York City on Thursday night. Stonewall is the site of the riots that are credited with initiating the modern gay rights movement; the riots themselves were arguably started by two trans women, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.
The event, which was organized by Equality NY, showcased the ability of the LGBTQ community and its allies to come together quickly in the face of turmoil. Many of the signs at the rally, similarly, showcased the ability of that same community to make a serious point with humor. Here are some of the most moving, funny, and meaningful signs from the Stonewall Protect Trans Kids protest.
1"States' Rights" Means Bigots' Rights
Trump's new rule leaves trans rights up to the states. The concept of states' rights makes sense in theory — it sounds like an emphasis on more localized government — but in reality, the concept of states' rights has long been used as a justification for bigots to impose particularly discriminatory policies in their own states. States' rights were used to justify everything from slavery to racial discrimination.
2It Was Never About Bathrooms. Just Like It Was Never About Water Fountains
Another sign that compares discrimination against transgender kids to discrimination against black Americans.
3Trans Rights Are Human Rights
This sign incorporates the colors of the transgender pride flag and paraphrases Hillary Clinton's famous "women's rights are human rights" quote. Clinton, who as secretary of state made it easier for transgender Americans to change the sex listed on their passports, campaigned as an advocate for trans protection policies, including bathroom access.
4LGBT Rights Are Human Rights
Another reference to Clinton's famous speech, this Human Rights Watch poster reflects the unity amongst many of the LGBTQ protesters on Thursday night.
5If You Don't Like Trans People Using the Bathroom, Just Look Away, Like You Do with Corruption, War, Poverty, Environmental Destruction and Homelessness
This sign seems to not so subtly suggest that there are other significant issues that the government should be focusing on instead of prohibiting transgender children from accessing the bathroom of their choice.
6News Flash, Donald
This sign calls out Trump for introducing a policy that propagates the myth of the transgender bathroom predator. There is no reported case of a trans woman having ever attacked a co-patron in a bathroom.
7Sisterhood, Not Cis-Terhood
This sign echoes a sentiment found on many signs at the Women's March: that feminism must necessarily include transgender women in order to be authentic.
8I Don't Care Who is in the Stall Next to Me, As Long As They're Willing to Pass the Toilet Paper If Need Be
This sign emphasizes the ridiculousness of the proposed ban: it's hard to believe most Americans care who uses the stall next to them. Transgender bathroom use doesn't affect cisgender people, plain and simple — as long as they're willing to pass the TP.
9Protect Trans Kids
The most startling thing about Trump's new rules, arguably, is that the population affected is made entirely of children. Many trans children in America already struggle with being from unaccepting or transphobic homes.
Many families turned out to the protest: understandably, since school-aged children — both trans children and their friends and allies — are the group most affected by this policy.
11Teachers Support Trans Youth!
Another showing of support from the people most affected by these policies: the teachers who care about and support their trans students.
12Resist the Cis-Tem
Another sign that uses the transgender flag to make a point about cisnormativity.
13Trans Kids Are Kids
Simple but powerful, this sign is a reminder that at its core, this policy disrupts the comfort and happiness of American children.
14Queer Is Beautiful
Calls to crisis support lines increased after Trump's election, and many LGBTQ people report feeling terrified that they will lose their civil rights. At times like these, LGBTQ pride is particularly important.
15Hate is a Choice. Being Trans is Not.
The LGB community struggled for years to communicate to heterosexual Americans that their sexual orientations were not choices; the transgender community, newly in the national spotlight, is still working to communicate this to cisgender people.
16Trump, Pence & Cronies — How About Transitioning Into Decent Human Beings?
This sign calls out Trump, of course, but it also mentions Mike Pence, whose dismal record on LGBTQ rights has, as I've argued previously, been insufficiently discussed by the American public.
17Don't Close Doors On Trans Kids!
This sign emphasizes the literal, physical isolation experienced by children who are unable to use the bathroom that makes them feel comfortable in public school. The people at the rally Thursday believe the United States cannot close the door or turn its back on them.