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Laverne Cox is devastated by the news that the Trump administration has rescinded guidelines that protect transgender students’ rights to use bathrooms based on their gender identity.
On Wednesday, the Justice and Education departments said the Obama administration’s May 2016 guidelines asserting that federal law Title IX protects the right of transgender students do not “contain extensive legal analysis” and are not “consistent with the express language of Title IX.” In a letter to America’s public schools, the Trump administration said that states and local school districts should establish educational policy.
Cox, an actress and trans rights activist, says that one of her proudest moments of being a transgender American was when former attorney general Loretta Lynch said the Obama administration would do everything they could going forward to protect the rights of transgender people.
“To have that revoked feels like we are moving backward,” Cox told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday. She added that she feels like “our government is not acknowledging the humanity of trans people, not acknowledging that we are who we say we are.”
“It’s really devastating,” the Orange Is the New Black actress continued. “For a lot of trans kids out there, it is a struggle to be treated with dignity and humanity.”
Forty-one percent of transgender and gender nonconforming adults have attempted suicide, according to a study by The Williams Institute in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The National Center of Transgender Equality conducted a study in 2011 that showed 82 percent of transgender youth feel unsafe at school.
Cox said that the increased risk for bullying and suicide is partly because “We live in a culture that shames, stigmatizes, even criminalizes transgender people” and she’s concerned about the effect removing these protections will have on trans youth.
At the Grammys this year, Cox called out Gavin Grimm’s upcoming Supreme Court case on March 28 and the hashtag #StandWithGavin” began trending shortly after. Grimm sued his school board in order to use the boy’s bathroom at his school, saying that his school banning him from doing so is a violation of Title IX, the federal law against sex discrimination at school. Cox said she was frustrated that his “very crucial” case wasn’t publicized more, which is why she brought it up at the awards show.
Cox said that the Trump administration’s removal of these protections makes Grimm’s case even more important, and she hopes to continue to “elevate and amplify” the voices of trans youth like Grimm. “The folks in the current administration who rescinded these rights say it’s a states’ rights issue. I believe it’s a civil rights issue,” said Cox. She said if SCOTUS decides Title IX does not cover transgender people it will “set civil rights for trans people back potentially decades.”
“When the Supreme Court knows who we really are and we’re able to elevate the lived experiences of trans people, and not the misinformation that people want to perpetuate about who transgender people are, then we can win this fight,” Cox added.
“The reality is that no one is threatened when a trans person has access to a bathroom,” said Cox, saying it’s about allowing transgender people to have the same access everyone else has.
“During Jim Crow I think a lot of white folks in the segregated south didn’t necessarily feel comfortable using a bathroom with a black person — that doesn’t make segregating bathrooms based on race something right,” said Cox. “If people are uncomfortable with a trans person needing to use a public bathroom, they need to work through that themselves.”
She adds, “I hate going to public bathrooms. Public bathrooms are disgusting. But they are unfortunately a necessity. This is about whether trans people have a right to exist in public space.”
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