Betsy DeVos and Transgender Youth
by Jack Conner
America is changing; people are beginning to rethink identity constraints, ushering in a new era of emergence and pride from the LGBTQ community. A poll from 2016 shows that 4.1% of American adults consider themselves to be LGBTQ. In the past, being gay or transgender was illegal, but now that is starting to change. Unlike previous centuries, being LGBTQ is acceptable in most places in the US. However, even now gay and transgenders face prejudice everywhere, from work, to sports, and even in school.
The most recent discrimination that transgenders have to face is their bathrooms at school. A girl who identifies as a male and has undergone surgery to become a boy is still forced to use a unisex bathrooms instead of the boy’s bathroom. A perfect example of this is Alex Howe, a transgender high school alumni from Texas. When Alex went through an operation to make him a man, his decision ended up having disastrous consequences for him at school, with the school forcing him to use unisex bathrooms and sleep in his own room during school trips. This affected Alex deeply, causing him to fall into depression and take numerous antidepressants. Because of the cruel treatment he endured, Alex pushed for change by filing a complaint to the Department of Education. Instead of examining the case and making a fair judgement, the case was thrown out: and it was not the only one. A Politico examination of the records shows that at least five similar cases were thrown out. But who is to blame for this?
The answer, it seems, is the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, a woman who is best described in a quotation from the Washington Post, which states that DeVos is a “Michigan billionaire and conservative activist.” At the time of her nomination in early 2017, DeVos was heavily criticized by Democrats and other liberals because of her low qualifications for the job and support of Christian-run charter schools. For those who do not know, a charter school is an independent school that receives public funding through taxes. Charter schools are independently run, so they are allowed to filter who is accepted into the school and often do so so by accepting people who score high on placement tests. The reason for pushback on this is that the charter school funding pulls from public school funding, and not everyone gets accepted into charter schools. In addition to her support of charter schools, DeVos has shown that she may be biased against transgenders. As Secretary of Education, DeVos has retracted laws from the Obama administration designed to protect the rights of transgender students. The law that DeVos retracted gave guidance to public schools on whether to allow transgender students use of their gender-specific bathrooms. Without this guidance, schools are allowed to do whatever they want in regard to transgender students and their bathrooms. As a result of DeVos’s actions and opinions, transgender students all around the country are being discriminated against and forced to follow rules that ignore the existence of transgender people. This is seen by many as another crisis that plagues the LGBTQ community and another injustice that must be stopped.