President Donald Trump rescinded Obama-era federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity last Wednesday. However, the Yale community — which has predominantly opposed this policy reversal — remains steadfast in its commitment to protecting transgender rights at Yale and across the country.
University President Peter Salovey told the News that the removal of governmental protections for transgender students in public schools will not affect Yale’s policies or facilities. The University will continue to provide all-gender bathrooms on campus and provide the same support, programming and services for transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer students, faculty and staff as it has in the past, Salovey said.
“I am strongly committed to Yale being an inclusive and welcoming place for all members of our community, and any rollback in federal policies will not weaken our commitment in this regard,” he added.
A March 2 statement on the YaleNews website reaffirmed the University’s support for its transgender population, stating that Yale students, community members and guests to the campus are “free to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.”
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway told the News this week that the University will “absolutely stand by [its] state of policies when it comes to transgender issues, including [the use of] bathrooms and self-expression.”
Trans@Yale, a student community for nonbinary and transgender folk, released a statement on Thursday denouncing Trump’s policy reversal. Isaac Amend ’17, a member of Trans@Yale and a staff columnist for the News, said the repeal was “a tragic step back in our fight for civil rights.” He described the reversal as detrimental to the social and physical well-being of trans students.
“The [Trump] administration is callous and toxic to trans students who face a lot of bullying, discrimination and internalized shame, sometimes on a daily basis,” Amend said.
He said that Trump’s administration is out of step with many of the values of the Yale community, adding that Yale is a “progressive and open-minded campus.” However, he noted that even while the Yale administration typically responds to student complaints on transgender issues, it still could be more proactive in helping trans students.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler ’87 — who has championed transgender rights on Yale’s campus, notably spearheading a campaign for all-gender restrooms last year — expressed disappointment that the federal government was not acting as a leader in the defense of transgender rights. Gendler emphasized that Yale has several resources available for the trans community, including the Yale Women’s Center, the LGBTQ Student Cooperative at Yale, the Yale LGBTQ Affinity Group, the Queer People of Color Affinity Group, Trans@Yale and TransWise.
“We officially recognize the affirmed gender of students in our housing policies, medical resources and campus records,” Gendler said.
Although the Women’s Center has yet to release an official statement on Trump’s action, Public Relations Coordinator Vicki Beizer ’18 expressed the center’s solidarity with the trans community at Yale. Beizer said the policy shift “struck close to home” and emphasized the center’s focus on intersectionality.
Beizer described the revoke as indicative of the Trump administration’s stance on the trans community as a whole.
“It’s not about bathrooms or schools; it’s about how we grant freedoms to certain people more than others,” Beizer said. “It’s a shameful ideology.”
In May 2016, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released a joint “Dear Colleague” letter backing the Obama-era guidelines, interpreting Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 as granting protection against gender identity discrimination. Although Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have promised to protect LGBTQ+ rights in schools, the recent reversal has led to concern among trans students and their allies.
Still, Lauren Lee ’20, a transgender student in Hopper College, said she personally has no strong feelings on the issue of bathroom access, although she understands the political and social critiques on either side of the debate.
“It seems to me to be a nonissue, especially considering that other accommodations, such as unisex restrooms, have been made and that social norms informing behavior in the restroom preach nonconfrontation,” Lee said.
Lee said Obama’s bathroom access order was perhaps a stopgap fix for discrimination against the transgender community, adding that real change is “not in preventative measures that come after the fact” but in addressing the root of the problem.
Following the Trump administration’s withdrawal of the bathroom access guidelines, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed an executive order protecting transgender students in the state’s school system.