ACPA Response to Department of Education's Reversal of Transgender Student Rights

On Monday, 12 February 2018, the U.S. Department of Education announced their decision to further rollback protections for transgender students designated by the Obama administration. Education Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill stated that Title IX protects transgender students from harassment or penalization for failure to conform to sex-based stereotypes, but ‘providing separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.’  At this time the Education Office for Civil Rights has provided no official statement. This nuanced separation of rights and protections serves as a cover-up for further marginalization and discrimination of transgender students and colleagues.

Research continues to show that access to inclusive bathrooms positively impacts student success.1 As student affairs and services professionals, we have a duty to serve trans students. Our efforts to center the needs of trans students and colleagues in our campus environments matter. This action by the Department of Education does not stop our work or advocacy and should embolden members to continue to mobilize compassion to voice concerns and continue to impact change protecting the trans community. The Coalition for Sexuality and Gender Identities, the Coalition for Women’s Identities, and the Coalition for Men and Masculinities have long been leaders in advocating for rights and access for students and employees, and it is important that we continue that work in our roles as well.

This national discussion has allowed higher education institutions to develop as well as expand a range of resources to support transgender students and people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions (SOGIE) including: covering medical treatments and services for transgender students, developing gender-inclusive residential communities and bathrooms as well as including gender identity and expression in non-discrimination policies.  However, we are aware that more advocacy is needed to shift policy, programming, and practice that negatively impacts or creates barriers to success for students and colleagues. ACPA will continue its collaborative partnerships with institutions of higher education and representatives of Congress through creating discourse and scholarship regarding how to best advocate for the needs of transgender students and colleagues.

Sharing your experiences and reflections are powerful mechanisms for change and advocacy.  We encourage you to advocate for the needs of trans students and colleagues by contacting members of Congress, partnering with student groups on your campus for education and advocacy, and promoting action via social media.

We also encourage you to work closely with your Title IX, Equity Office, or other office that provides advocacy for the equitable treatment of all people on your campuses to ensure that the needs and protections for trans students and colleagues are not diminished, and that advocacy for the needs of trans students and colleagues is strengthened.

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This letter was written, edited, and supported by members of the ACPA External Relations Advisory Board (ERAB), Coalition for Sexuality and Gender Identities (CSGI), Coalition for Women's Identities (CWI), and Coalition on Men & Masculinities (CMM).