We Object to a Government That Bullies Our Young People

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March 1, 2017
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Photo by: AJ Kane

This past weekend, on a cold and snowy Chicago day, I stood outside with hundreds of others to speak out against the Trump administration’s rescission of guidance for teachers and administrators on how best to honor the rights of transgender students.

As I took to the stage, I was so proud to see so many in our community there. Hundreds of people had come with little notice. I could feel their determination.

We did not care that it was 20-something degrees or that our fingers and toes were starting to go numb. The call had gone out that it was time to take to the streets. To send a message of love and support to our community’s children. To deliver a warning to the bullies that would come for our kids.

And we answered. In that moment, I knew exactly the message I wanted to give to trans and gender-nonconforming young people.

I remember the living nightmare that school was.

I remember how — far too often — walking through those school doors felt like walking through the Gates of Hell. I remember the pain of trying to hide who I truly was. And I remember the torment that being unable to hide brought me.

Looking back, I still don’t know how I made it through those years.

To trans and gender-nonconforming young people: I see you, I was you. I see the way you have advocated for yourself to your friends, families, communities and schools. I see how you have been literally on the front lines, leading countless others to progress.

And I have been inspired by you. I have been inspired to act. I will help you through the difficult and unforgiving terrain that cisgender people will simply never know.

Photo by: AJ Kane

Last Wednesday, Donald Trump, Betsy Devos and Jeff Sessions rescinded President Obama’s Title IX school guidance letter.

That letter provided educators with best practices on how to ensure that trans and gender-nonconforming students were respected, affirmed and protected in school.

This action did not change the law, but it did show us that there are no depths to which a bully won’t go. It was an inhumane attempt to sow confusion and invite discrimination against young people.

Disappointingly for Donald Trump (but fortunately for us), the president does not have the power to singlehandedly change the law. As we have seen with the cruel and misguided executive order banning immigrants and refugees from majority Muslim countries, as well as ICE raids of undocumented — and some documented — people, Donald Trump will flex what little muscle he has to attack the most marginalized.

By rescinding the Obama guidelines, Donald Trump is trying to provide cover for other bullies to ignore and trample on the rights of some of the most vulnerable members in our community. This callous action, like all the actions of bullies, was taken with complete disregard for the young people that Trump, Sessions and DeVos would be hurting.

Now more than ever, we must make sure all LGBTQ young people know that they are not alone.

We have to let them know that in this “unpresidented” time, we can take this bully president to court and set legal precedent he can’t destroy.

We are the spiritual descendants of those who rose-up at the Stonewall Inn and at Compton’s Cafeteria. We are the people who have taken to the streets and the courtrooms to fight for every last bit of progress we could get over the last 60 years.

We are the spiritual descendants of those who rose-up at the Stonewall Inn and at Compton’s Cafeteria. We are the people who have taken to the streets and the courtrooms to fight for every last bit of progress we could get over the last 60 years.
Photo by: AJ Kane
The spirits of those fighters live in us. We are ready to make sure that not only is the progress we have fought so hard for not lost, but that we will continue to move forward, no matter what bullies stand in our way.

To trans and gender-nonconforming students, and to all other young people being bullied by those who think they have the power to silence and reject you:

Know that you are not alone, even though it may feel that way at times. Know that we are all with you. Know that Lambda Legal remains vigilant, that we object and that we will never stop fighting for your rights.

Because despite what this administration may want you to think, you do have rights.

We object to any school district that tries to scare you, or prevents you from being your true self.

And we object to any purported institution of learning that fails to nurture and protect you in the way that you need and deserve.

To Betsy Devos: We object to a bully at the head of the Department of Education!

To Jeff Sessions: We object to a bully leading the Department of Justice!

And to Donald Trump: We object to a bully in the White House!

We object.