Opinion: Trans rights should not be up for interpretation

By Isaiah Colbert, Opinions Editor

Chloe McMullen

Since the attack on the Capitol and the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump in the first few weeks of 2021, 10 members of his administration have jumped ship in the form of resignations.

This act of putting in their two weeks’ notice served as an attempt for government officials to distance themselves from Trump and absolve any guilt from having associated with him.

However, Betsy DeVos, former U.S. secretary of education, stuck to her guns and took one last petty shot at LGBTQ+ rights on her way out in a pitiful memo.

DeVos submitted her letter of resignation on Jan. 7, a day after the attack on the Capitol. She stated in her letter to Trump that instead of celebrating his accomplishments for the American people, his administration was left to clean up the mess from violent protestors, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“There is no mistaking the impact [Trump’s] rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” DeVos said in the letter.

DeVos seems to have a mirror-less house, as she clearly has not looked at how her own actions and rhetoric have negatively impacted LGBTQ+ and, specifically, trans people.

On Jan. 8, the day DeVos’ resignation was to take effect, the U.S. Department of Education Office of the General Counsel released a 13-page internal memorandum that sought to invalidate previous Title IX discrimination protections for trans people.

LGBTQ+ and trans advocates clearly saw DeVos’ fingerprints smudged all over the memorandum.

“In her final moments at the Department of Education, Secretary Betsy DeVos prioritized punishing LGBTQ students,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement, according to Education Week.

The memo features archaic yet familiar language from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

In the memo, categories of biological sex are used to discriminate against trans people, urging schools to deny them access to compete on sports teams and use gender-affirming bathrooms.

In reference to trans students joining athletic programs, the memo states athletic teams should “separate participants solely based on their biological sex, male or female, and not based on transgender status or homosexuality, to comply with Title IX.”

When encouraging schools not to allow trans students to access the correct bathrooms, the memo states: “The term ‘sex’ in this regulation clearly means ‘biological sex,’ or sex assigned at birth. Thus, it asserts that dividing restrooms by sex assigned at birth—requiring transgender boys to use the girls’ restroom and transgender girls to use the boys’ restroom—cannot be discriminatory.”

For a person who has claimed to believe the federal government should not be heavily involved in education, DeVos is displaying heavy-handed micromanagement of trans people with this memo.

The memo is a stingy death throw from the Trump administration and will be remembered as the crab in a bucket concept brought to life: “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” The previous administration would rather have the rights of trans people go down with them than bow out in disgrace.

DeVos is not new to grasping at straws in an attempt to shortchange trans students of their rights. She led an investigation into whether trans bathrooms led to sexual assault in 2018, according to Politico, despite evidence suggesting trans people face a higher risk of sexual assault when schools restrict their bathroom usage.

DeVos has also threatened to withhold funds from Connecticut schools that allow trans athletes to compete on teams of their choice, according to the New York Times.

This latest memo will undoubtedly be hit with an Uno reverse card in the form of executive orders issued by the newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden.

Biden issued 26 executive orders within his first two days in office—one of which reversed an order put in place by the Trump administration allowing the federal government to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Biden also issued the banning of combat discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, according to a statement from White House communication officials.

The Biden administration has a low bar to jump, simply by not being the Trump administration. But undoing previous actions against trans people will not be enough. Biden should make it impossible for so-called originalists to use Title IX to exclude trans people and prioritize their explicit protection.

Trans people should not have to be patient onlookers to the on-again-off-again life cycle of legislation that protects them under each administration.