Bathroom bills are on the march across the United States. Most of the states pursuing these “bathroom bills” are based in the South or Midwest of the country. However, they may not be exclusive to these areas. Either way, it is very disconcerting.
The gist of the “bathroom bills” is a ploy to allow discrimination against LGBTIQ based upon an exercise of “religious freedom”, “privacy issues”, and imaginary “safety issues”. Most are sponsored by organizations that are virulently intolerant of anyone who is perceived as “not straight.” Religion might be in their name, but it is historical patriarchal mechanisms which they are really supporting. Thus, it is a structure that cannot tolerate any threat to loss of power or influence at it’s core. This structure must constantly renew itself through immersion of people (aka students) into its values. One way to do that is to engender fear and suspicion in the community (aka school) of anyone who is different.
This brings us to the issue of lawsuits and bathroom use for transfolk who are school-aged students, especially for middle and high school. It brings up issues of support, rights, and safety, not only for the trans student, but for all students of every stripe, color, creed, race, gender, and orientation by restricting a student due to a trait or feature about said student(s). Hence, it can be the beginning of a long and winding road of discrimination of class(es) of people.
One particular lawsuit in Virginia is winding its way to a possible Supreme Court showdown. It is one in which there is a strong likelihood that the suit will be returned to the states due to the new Trump administration and their penchant for “traditional values”.
I don’t want to be a wet-noodle or a Debby Downer, but the efforts to secure a right to use the bathroom matching one’s gender identity is about to go on pause for a while in some states, and that would likely include Virginia.
I’m an old transwoman of over 20 years. I also counsel as an MFT those who are closeted or keeping secrets, or in an inquiry into their identity. These are not easy things to address.
Suing in federal court to identify a “right” to not be discriminated due to gender identity has moved forward by linking such suits to Title IX clauses prohibiting sex discrimination. This linkage is thanks to the Obama administration creating rules with executive orders which altered the interpretation of sex to include gender identity. A very logical and appropriate development, in my view. But, forgive the pun, this area of law is still quite fluid.
However, with this new Trump administration I believe it is extremely likely that these rules will be removed. In that case, pursuing nondiscrimination based upon gender identity does not necessarily have federal backing. And that means these battles against discrimination will return to the state level.
A law professor of mine once said, regarding suing for discrimination, that if you file suit, you better win. Because if you don’t win, you’ll not only be hurting yourself, but the entire class of people just like you.
Tread carefully. Work with the school districts to avoid going to court unless it is absolutely necessary. Consider accepting a compromise that does not demean, shame, or invoke suffering, especially if the motive of the school district is really about doing their best to protect and respect the trans student, as well as deal with other parents who act out of fears, not facts. Most of all stay safe.
Or as my father used to tell me, “It might be YOUR right. But don’t be DEAD right.” Good advice.
20 years ago when I came out, facing myself, and facing others, I made compromises in order to survive. There were no laws protecting Transfolk from any kind of discrimination. In order to allay others’ fears. In order to keep my job. In order to have a place to live. And in time people came around and wondered what all the fuss was about. I don’t want any of us to go back in time. But I don’t want anyone hurt, injured or killed either.
Lastly, do not take this as surrender or appeasement. One must pick their battles while also maintaining their ability to function in the greater society. It is sometimes a long and slow trudging process. Moving forward is often done in small steps, through being real and allowing people to know you, and you getting your message out there in how you live your life, and how you speak about your life.