“Two steps back” for transgender students

Photo Courtesy of KSAT.com

Ashton Nanninga

Imagine being stuck in a room with only two doors. Both are locked, and you don’t have the key to either.

This scenario illustrates the very realistic circumstances that transgender children are facing today. They have been placed in a dichotomous culture that progresses one step forward, then takes two steps back. This is especially true after President Trump’s recent lifting of federal transgender bathroom guidelines.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, transgender students lost federal protections placed by the former president, Barack Obama. The federal policy that was removed allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms and lock-er rooms matching their gender identities. Since the removal of this policy, it is now up to the states to put their own guidelines in place.

During President Trump’s campaign, one of his platforms that he held fast to was allocating more power to the states. The lifting of this specific guideline does align with his ideals. States will now be able to decide and have more power in this matter. And yes, they could elect to put explicit protections in place regarding transgender students and bathrooms; fifteen states have already done this.

However, the contrasting front is a much deeper shade of gray. It is not as clear cut, not as black and white, as for the former fifteen. The lifting of the transgender bathroom guideline could lead to states revoking these rights previously given to students. In a Chicago Tribune article by Maria Danilova and Sadie Gurman titled Trump Administration Lifts Federal Transgender Bathroom Guidelines, it is mentioned that ten states are already considering enacting laws that restrict bathroom access through the gender on one’s birth certificate.

This issue that our nation is facing today has the possibility of cracking the very foundation we were formed upon. We are the United States of America, emphasis on “united” and “states.” Allowing a federal guideline such as this to be put in the hands of the states only lets these prospective cracks deepen. Our nation has the potential to become a divided one, at best. The separation on “hot topics” such as this is such a large step back in the race of progressiveness. Freedoms and protections of citizens are being revoked.

The removal of the federal bathroom guideline is a representation of so much more. The lifting of this guideline sends a message to transgender students, and the community as a whole, that their safety and inclusion isn’t a priority. The UNO chair for LGBT+ and Sexuality Studies minor, Dr. Jay Irwin, lent his insight when asked about the recent change.

As someone involved in the LGBTQIA+ community, Irwin said he is disheartened by this change.

“The message that this sends too young trans people is that their safety and inclusion doesn’t matter,” Irwin said. “At the end of the day, this is a public accommodations issue – the administration has sent the message that trans people should not be protected in the public sphere.”

Irwin, himself, is part of the transgender community. Before coming to UNO, Irwin transitioned from female to male in graduate school. He goes on to state that, “Our sense of self-worth is impacted when our elected leaders fail to represent and protect us.” These words have tremendous weight, especially coming from someone directly involved.

One silver lining within the whole issue is that we are all part of the UNO community. Irwin believes, and so do I, that the university’s campus and community is dedicated to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all stu-dents, faculty and staff. We need to make sure that organizations and the voices within those organizations are heard. Visibility is key during this division within our nation and our politics.

“I know young people who are scared already of living as their authentic selves,” Irwin said, “But if they can’t safely use the restroom at their schools, then how are they supposed to be successful?”