Even as gay rights battles are won, transgender people continue to face obstacles

Jaclyn Cosgrove
February 19, 2018


In post-marriage-equality America, where same-sex couples live openly and increasingly are embraced in their communities, those on the conservative right who once pushed back against gay rights now appear to have shifted their focus to the transgender community.

So far this year, 10 states have introduced a flurry of bills that would make life tougher for transgender people, especially students who try to use campus restrooms that match their gender identity. And earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed that it will no longer investigate civil rights complaints from transgender students who say they were barred from using restrooms that align with their gender identity.

“I would say what we’re seeing with transgender people is history repeating itself,” said Seth Galanter, senior director at the National Center for Youth Law.

“We saw the same thing 60 years ago with integrating black and white kids together. We saw it 40 years ago integrating kids with disabilities into public schools, and now we’re seeing it with transgender people,” Galanter said.

Galanter, who worked in the Obama administration when it issued the gender identity guidelines, said transgender students are at risk of being deprived of basic civil liberties.

Galanter said the Trump administration’s decision — to not pursue civil rights complaints from transgender students on the basis of gender identity — puts an economic and emotional burden on transgender students and their parents.

“The Office for Civil Rights has closed its doors to these complaints, and for a lot of people, they can’t afford a lawyer, and they don’t want to make a big scene in a courtroom,” Galanter said. “They just want their kid to be able to go to school.”

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Organizations mentioned/involved: National Center for Youth Law (NCYL)
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