A right rescinded

Dear Donald –

What happens to a civil right rescinded? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?

Anti-discrimination protections are, in many ways, the core of our constitutional democracy. Regardless of who each of us is, or what we believe, we should expect equal treatment, and equal protection, under the law.   To be absolutely clear, our nation has rarely lived up to this credo. Whether it be blacks, poor people, women, religious minorities, or LGBT people, our country has sought to move toward a more inclusive society. In fits and starts, but always forward. There have always been efforts to roll back protections for certain groups once they had been extended, but the Federal government always stood on the side of protecting rights once they have been granted, at least until yesterday. 

Rescinding the Title IX guidance on transgender students was a huge step backwards for civil rights in our country. It’s not just about what bathrooms kids get to use in schools, it’s about whether or not the Federal government stands up for these kids, and whether we recognize their value. 

There was a study published recently that examined the impact of legalizing gay marriage on the suicide rates of teens. They found that, in states where same sex marriage was legalized, there was a 14% decline in suicide rates among gay teens. There was even a 7% decline among all teens, regardless of sexual orientation. The authors explained that they believe that laws legalizing same sex marriage in a state provided gay teens with a sense of belonging, and hope for the future. They recognized that their states cared about them and was willing to legally ensure that they had a future. And that sense of acceptance and belonging provided benefits across the board. 

What happens to a civil right rescinded?  Does it fester like a sore and the run?

For far too long, the right’s discussion of the LGBT community has had distinct overtones of sexual predation. Yesterday’s convictions that gay men were all secretive child molesters has become today’s certainty that transgender teens use the bathroom only to sexually assault people. Such thinking was the basis of HB2 in North Carolina. For a certain segment of the right, something even as basic and fundamental to life as using the bathroom can become hyper-sexualized when thought of in the context of LGBT people. To be fair, I know of more Senators accused of sexual misconduct in restrooms than transgender people. However, paranoia trumps facts. At the end of the day, transgender kids are weird and different to the right, which means they have to be isolated and diminished. For them, the worst outcome is the inclusion of transgender teens more fully into the lives and fabric of their schools. After all, when folks actually get to know transgender youth, they’re less likely to be hateful and bigoted, which really shrinks the conservative voting bloc. 

Title IX was originally drafted to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions. The underlying concept was clear – an institution receiving public dollars should not discriminate in its opportunities and accommodations for students on the basis of what made other people comfortable. All students have an equal right to an education and to be free from discrimination and jntimidation. 

I was happy to see that Betsy took a stand, for however short a period of time, against the repeal, but didn’t have the strength of her convictions to stand her ground on the issue. She, and you, allowed an Attorney General to overrule a Secretary of Education on a matter affecting schools. That’s a. Old precedent to set, and it raises the question of how you will handle disagreements in your cabinet moving forward. Will you always defer to prejudice over common sense? And will there ever come a point st which one of your appointees decides that you’ve crossed a red line and resign in protest?

What happens to a civil right rescinded?  Does it stink like rotten meat?

Truly though, we are left wondering about the transgender kids across this country tonight, and really all LGBT folks. His move sends a sign that they are somehow diminished in your America, that they mean less than they did six weeks ago, that they don’t matter. What happens when the next bullied transgender teen commits suicide? Will we all once again talk about what a tragedy it is, and such a waste, and every other platitude we can muster, then move on with our lives without changing anything?

I recognize that so much of the Obama agenda was accomplished through the stroke of a pen, and can just as easily be undone. We must all be aware that our progress is not to be taken for granted and it can all disappear in an instant. This guidance was supposedly not a priority for your Administration, but within 33 days you rolled back Federal protections for these students. 

What rights and protections are next? And what are we each going to do to protect all students from bullying, harassment, and discrimination?

What happens to a civil right rescinded? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?

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