With all the negativity focused against the LGBTQ community, particularly the Trans population, it is easy to feel like we, as a community, are moving backwards.  Do you ever wonder what the actual laws are that protect you? There are laws on the books that changed everything.  The big one is Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title IX, as a federal civil rights law in the United States of America, was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. This is Public Law, co-authored and introduced by Senator Birch Bayh in the U.S. Senate,  was later renamed the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002 after Patsy Mink, its late U.S. House co-author and sponsor.  The original text, as signed into law by President Richard Nixon, includes “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”— Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (20 U.S. Code § 1681 – Sex). 

The original 1964 Act was passed to end discrimination in various fields based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the areas of employment and public accommodation. It was specifically meant protect athletes in high school and college, as lobbied by classical feminists of the time.  Since the original statute did not actually mention sports at all, it later became subject to interpretation.  It was President Obama who applied Title IX to sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical/mental handicap through a series of “Dear Colleague” letters that remain in legal limbo.

It may seem like an oversimplification to go from Nixon to Obama in terms of intent and interpretation, and that is because it is.  It took a long time, and many steps to get there, and much of it on the heels of progress in the women’s movement.  To go from ensuring that women would be treated with respect in the locker room to recognizing gender identity took roughly fifty years and many hands to fight for those rights.

In March of 2018, President Trump made the official decision to accept “The Mattis Plan”, which prohibits people with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — the medical diagnosis for those who receive treatment, often during their transition —from serving in the military except under “certain limited circumstances”.   A class action law suit has been filed challenge the Trump-Pence ban, entitled Doe v. Trump.  According to an article in the Rainbow Times, published on May 12, 2018, The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLAAD have been at the center of the law suit and other legal battles invoked to prove the unconstitutionality of the ban.

In February 2017, the Department of Justice and Department of Education under the Trump administration withdrew the guidance on gender identity issued by the Obama administration. The DOJ issued a letter stating that “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity…. Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX… In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX.”

They went on to cite a need to “more completely consider the legal issues involved”, going on to clarify that “there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing education policy”.  Thereby punting the entire issue to local government and/or administrations.

This further illustrates how very important it is to familiarize yourself with the protections afforded you where you live, work, and go to school.  It changes from state to state, and until we can get an ironclad amendment passed into Federal Law, knowledge of your rights is just step one in protecting yourself and winning the war against discrimination for good.