Today, the Trump Administration rescinded federal guidance issued this past May under the Obama Administration instructing schools to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—ensuring fair and equal treatment for transgender students across the country.
While the guidance was not binding, it was based on strong legal precedent affirming that existing civil rights protections on the basis of sex include protections for transgender students. It specifically instructed schools across the country to allow transgender students access to restrooms that align with their gender identity—saying that “all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.”
Our campaign co-chair Kasey Suffredini released this statement today:
“As the federal government rolls back its efforts to protect transgender youth from discrimination, it’s more important than ever that the Commonwealth already has these nondiscrimination protections in place under state law. The administration’s announcement has no impact on the Commonwealth’s laws protecting students from discrimination in schools, under which schools have been successfully balancing the needs of all students for years, ensuring that transgender students – who already face exponentially higher levels of bullying and harassment than their peers – can participate fully and succeed in school just like their non-transgender peers. As always, Massachusetts is and remains a beacon of liberty and fairness, a point of local pride that matters more now than ever.”
Mason Dunn, co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts and executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), the statewide organization dedicated to ending oppression and discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression, added:
“Here in Massachusetts we have seen, first hand, the successful implementation of trans-inclusive policies in our public schools. The 2011 DESE guidance, and its implementation, made it clear that open and affirming policies for transgender students is simply good educational practice. Today’s federal withdrawal of guidance is sadly a departure from what many of the nation’s educators, school administrators, health professionals, and students know to be true: that access to affirming schools is a matter of safety, health, and wellness for transgender youth. We will not stop advocating for the rights and dignity of transgender youth or students, regardless of this administration’s failure to prioritize the needs of our community.”
In 2011, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to adopt a non-discrimination protections for transgender students. The Massachusetts law soon became a blueprint for transgender-inclusive policies for education policies across the country—including the now-rescinded federal guidance.
Today, we stand with transgender students across the country who are grappling with the hurtful reality that our federal government does not think they are deserving of the most basic dignity. But in Massachusetts, we are proud and relieved that nothing in today’s decision will erode our rich tradition of respecting transgender students. No matter the discriminatory policy pursued by the Trump Administration, Massachusetts law is clearer than ever that transgender students in our Commonwealth must be treated equally.
The fact is: Rolling back existing protections just isn’t the Massachusetts way. Our commitment to civil rights has made Massachusetts a national leader—and while in some places across the country, anti-equality forces are making devastating advances, Massachusetts continues to be a shining example of a state that believes in fair and equal treatment for every single person.
Our state’s leadership was on display this past year as a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers passed #TransLawMA, the law that now ensures protections for transgender people in Massachusetts in public spaces like doctor’s offices, hotels and restaurants. Dozens of transgender students advocated for passage of the legislation—and in true Massachusetts fashion, our state moved to affirm their worth and dignity.
In November 2018, a shameful ballot initiative will seek to strip away these much-needed protections for transgender people in Massachusetts. And in the face of disappointing setbacks on the federal level and in states across the country, we are confident that Massachusetts will continue to be the leader we’ve always been—and voters will affirm that Massachusetts is a state where everyone is welcome.