On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer signaled that the Trump Administration is moving to reverse President Obama's policies that protect transgender students across the country. "This is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government," Spicer told reporters. Leaks of a two-page draft of a letter to be sent by Trump's Departments of Justice and Education to U.S. schools shows Trump is about to reverse course on trans protections. The good thing is that you can actually make your voice heard if you want to continue protecting trans students.
Specifically, Trump's letter could reverse how Obama's Departments of Justice and Education interpreted Title IX, which prevents sex discrimination in education, as protecting transgender students from discrimination too. That included guaranteeing the right to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. This bit of the policy in particular drew outrage from conservatives, and some 13 states sued over the matter. Also, a separate case will be heard in front of the Supreme Court in March regarding Virginia high school student Gavin Grimm whose school district doesn't want to let him use the men's bathroom.
Now say you don't agree with the Trump Administration and you think that schools shouldn't discriminate against transgender students. Can you tell the president? Actually, now you can. If you're still under the impression there's nothing you can do about it, the White House comment line reopened this month with volunteer operators.
Just after Trump took office, the White House comment line was turned off. When you called, this is the message you got:
The comment line is currently closed, but your comment is important to the president, and we urge you to send us a message at whitehouse.gov/comment or send us a message through Facebook Messenger.
But now from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST you can call, and you'll be connected with an operator after a few minutes on hold. Consider calling. Trump has been painted as moveable on some LGBT issues over the course of the campaign and his first month as president. He said in April trans people should be able to use the bathroom they want, and then just last month he kept worker protections for LGBT people working for the federal government or contractors.
Of course, as Vanita Gupta, Obama's head of the DOJ's civil rights division, told BuzzFeed, Trumps' actions here do not change the law — just the executive branch's interpretation of it. Students like Grimm can still attempt to use Title IX to protect their civil rights, they will just have to rely on groups like the ACLU to do so, rather than have the administration attempt to apply fairness across the entire country.
But even though this is not the end of the world, it would be better for transgender students to have the DOJ and Education Department on their side. Trump could make that happen. Call the White House comment line at +1-202-456-1111 this morning at 9 a.m. EST, and let Trump know that you support trans students. He may not bend, but with the phone line open, at least you have a chance.
Show students like Grimm that you're with them and tell the administration to reverse course.