The parents of eight transgender children from across the country have requested a meeting with President Trump and key administration officials to discuss the effect of their decision to withdraw federal guidance explaining what the nation’s public schools must do to protect transgender students.
“We are heartbroken and scared about what this means,” the parents said Friday in a letter to Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “This action exposes transgender students to harassment and discrimination in their own classrooms, places they should feel safe and able to learn.”
A White House spokesman could not immediately say whether Trump had seen the letter, but he said the president has made clear that he’s open to meeting with a variety of people to improve Americans’ lives. An Education Department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
The letter was signed by parents from Texas, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Maine and D.C. They are members of the Human Rights Campaign’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, and many of them have become leading voices in the effort to raise awareness about and advocate for the needs of transgender people.
They include Debi and Tom Jackson, whose daughter Avery appeared on the cover of National Geographic in January, and Ron Ford Jr. and Vanessa Ford, who have written about their daughter, Ellie, in The Washington Post.
“We are continuing to fight,” Ron Ford Jr. said Wednesday, the day Trump withdrew the guidance, at a rally in support of transgender children in front of the White House. Ford’s short speech was captured on video and posted to Facebook. “Everyone needs to be protected in school, in their communities. Just because they rescinded the guidance … doesn’t meant that we all stop. We do not stop.”
The Obama-era guidance specified not only that transgender children should be allowed to use bathrooms matching their gender identity, but also how schools should navigate questions about which names and pronouns to use and which athletic team a child should be permitted to join. Many parents of transgender children embraced the guidance, saying that it made them feel as if Washington cared about — and was willing to protect — their children.
But the guidance also triggered a backlash from parents, activists and elected officials who argued that allowing transgender students access to restrooms matching their identity would violate the privacy and dignity of other students. More than a dozen states sued to block the guidance, and in August, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction temporarily prohibiting the federal government from enforcing it.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to decide whether Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded schools, protects transgender students. A decision could come as early as this year in a case involving a transgender teen who sued his Virginia school board after he was barred from using the boys’ restroom at school.
DeShanna Neal, of Wilmington, Del., said she hopes Trump and his Cabinet secretaries will be willing to listen to parents. Neal began home-schooling her daughter in kindergarten out of fear for her safety in schools that weren’t prepared to address her needs. Her daughter is now 13 and plans to attend high school next year.
“I want to sit down with Trump and DeVos and Sessions and say look, when I gave birth to my child, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have to fight for her equal rights. I just assumed she’d have them because she is a human being,” Neal said. Instead, she said, she worries about the discrimination her daughter may face not only because she is transgender, but also because she is black. “I want them to understand that she belongs here. My daughter is a person, she’s an American. She wants to get an education just like anybody else.”
Read the letter: