It hurts to hold your bladder when it wants to burst. It hurts when you raise your hand in class and ask to go the bathroom, and in front of everyone, the teacher says “no.” She knows it takes you too long to go to the bottom floor, out the door, across the courtyard, in the back of the next building and up the long hallway to the administrator’s offices to use the nurse’s bathroom.
It hurts to be segregated from the other kids. It hurts when the teachers keep calling you “he” when you are a girl. It hurts when kids throw shoes at your head because of who you are. It hurts when you are the one who gets suspended.
And it hurts when the new president of the United States works with the Justice Department and the Education Department to take away the protections students like me need across the country.
Barely a month into President Trump’s administration, being transgender hurts more than ever.
It wasn’t long ago that I first walked into my middle school as a girl, wearing flowered leggings and a burgundy top with lace on the bottom, pink Mac lipstick and a black wig with curls that bounced when I walked. The school administrators hadn’t wanted me to show up that way, worried about the other children’s reactions. My mom and the guidance counselor were worried about how scared I would be.
But think about it for a minute: If someone forced you to live as the wrong gender your whole life and then suddenly allowed you to go out into the world as who you were … how would you feel? I was a little scared, yeah. But mostly, I was excited! When the front doors of the school swung open and I walked into the main hallway, everyone was looking. They were laughing, making jokes, and pointing — but I kept walking. I was living my truth, and I was happy.
In 2014 there were no federal guidelines protecting trans kids against discrimination, and none in my county, either. Some school districts around the country had faced the issue already, thanks to other brave trans kids and their families who fought discrimination, school by school, district by district. Sometimes winning, often losing.
My mom helped me find a new place for high school. There was no way I could go through another four years like eighth grade. The District of Columbia has an excellent resource guide on trans-inclusive school policies that all its schools follow to protect against discrimination based on gender identity. Fortunately I live nearby in Prince George’s County, Md. The school switch was a complete turnaround. I am treated exactly like any other girl. It’s a nonissue. But we have to pay nearly $12,000 in tuition to go to this public school because we didn’t have an option in my county.
Then, last year, President Barack Obama and his administration — backed by a decade of case law, scientific, health, psychological and educational evidence, and overwhelming personal testimony — issued federal guidance that we may not be discriminated against. Title IX states that no student in schools receiving federal assistance may be discriminated against based on their sex. Obama’s guidance clarified that gender identity is included under sex.
I was even lucky enough to be one of the trans students who had input into the process of creating the guidance. Along with a dozen other trans teens, I was invited to write our experiences and recommendations for some Education Department officials. We discussed what could be done to make schools more trans-inclusive and respecting of our human dignity.
Last spring, the Obama administration said to us trans kids and adults: “We see you. We stand with you. We will protect you.” The pain of being different began to heal.
With Trump’s decision to roll back the guidance, the salve that gave the promise of healing disappears. Trans people are extraordinary, strong, intelligent, persistent and resilient. We have to be. And we will not stand for the picking and choosing of rights. We still have hope. Gavin Grimm goes to the Supreme Court in a month, and if he wins, his case would override the Trump administration’s attempt to allow discrimination against transgender students. Stand with us — because our lives matter and our education matters.