Even though it’s been two days since I heard what the White House officially thought of my daughter, when President Trump, Attorney General Sessions, and Secretary DeVos decided to withdraw President Obama’s guidance that protected transgender students under Title IX, I’m still in shock.
My 14-year-old daughter Kylie is a transgender teenager and this fall she starts her freshman year of high school in Michigan.
Just like all girls her age about to enter into the life-changing new adventure that is high school, she is filled with excitement and nerves. Yet unlike many of her classmates, including her twin brother, Kylie will leave home with the added pressure of being the target of discrimination not by her classmates, but by the U.S. government.
While we live in a community that has helped my daughter feel loved and respected—as any child should—there so many other parents and students who don’t have that luxury, and will now live knowing their government doesn’t either.
When Kylie came out to our family over the holidays in 2014, she was just 12 years old and we were hopeful the world was more tolerant, understanding, and accepting for our daughter than ever before.
For years, I sensed the anxiety and fear that tormented Kylie and, as any parent knows, there is nothing as difficult as watching your child struggle. When she finally told me, everything began to make more sense. The world she was once afraid of was giving her confidence and strength. She was an inspiration to me and everyone else who met her—I simply could not be prouder of who my daughter is today.
But like any parent, I wanted to protect my child and make sure she has the same opportunities as others. I was worried about how she might be treated by her classmates, teachers, and other parents. Back then I never could have imagined how supportive school administrators, teachers, and middle schoolers would be. Since March 2015, Kylie has been able to attend school as the girl that she is because leaders in the community were willing to listen, support her, and find solutions that worked for everyone.
When we moved south of Kalamazoo, her dad and I had never met the principal of our local public school, but knew how important it was to sit down with him and find a way to all work together. So, we met with the principal and the school counselor, and as they heard about Kylie, they told me that they wanted to work with us.
Even though they didn’t have experience with transgender students, I could tell they cared and they wanted to try and find a solution. The first step he took was to bring in a counselor from a LGBT resource center to offer trainings to teachers in the school, as well as educate the community on what it means to be transgender, why the community faces a higher risk of suicide, and how can schools logistically help students.
Most of us realize that going to the bathroom is something we all have to do, and thanks to supportive teachers and classmates Kylie has been able to use the girls’ restroom at school without issue. The only one who had any nerves about my daughter using the restroom was Kylie herself, because she was afraid of what other people might think. Once she saw how everyone treated her equally at school, her nerves went away.
My family is so fortunate to live in a community that is open and accepting, that has a school that truly embraces what it means to nurture a positive and safe environment that allows my daughter to get a quality education.
But I know that all students are not as fortunate as Kylie. For example, we are closely watching Gavin Grimm, the teenager in Virginia who is heading to the Supreme Court in just one month to make the case that transgender students should be able to use the bathroom just like any other student. Gavin’s and his family’s journey are a shining light for us during a time of great uncertainty.
With his head held high, Gavin Grimm gives us hope, especially as the Trump administration last night announced that they will ignore transgender students’ protections under Title IX. This has struck fear into the hearts of many parents of trans teenagers.
While Betsy DeVos supposedly “stood up” to President Trump and Attorney General Sessions this week, she ultimately put her own job first.
In fact, she has demonstrated a long history of anti-LGBT sentiment, including contributing millions of dollars to anti-LGBT organizations that are not only opposed to transgender students but even advocate for “conversion therapy,” which aims to use coercive counseling and religious teachings to convert someone from being LGBT.
It’s biased and abusive and has been thoroughly rejected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers.
As a parent, I would do anything to protect my child and I expect the person responsible for running our schools to do the same. Secretary DeVos is stepping aside while the administration makes it harder for the U.S. government to protect transgender students who just want to use the restroom they are comfortable with. It’s frightening to think we are governed by people so hateful, that they believe our sons and daughters don’t deserve a learning environment that emphasizes their safety and privacy.
Every child in this country deserves a high quality education, which also includes the important social experiences that help to shape young people and teach them how to treat others. No child deserves to grow up as “separate but equal” in the eyes of their classmates.
I hope that millions of other parents, families, and kids will make their voices heard and join me in standing up for students like Kylie and Gavin. Our government must follow the model set by our community and work to guarantee the safety, security, and privacy of all students.