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It’s not about bathrooms, it’s about visibility

Last week, the Trump Administration’s war on compassion raged on, this time with both the departments of justice and education each rolling back protections for transgender students and their right to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity, regardless of biologically designated sex.

Why do basic human rights make the conservative right squirm in their seats so much?

It’s exhausting to see rights snatched away from one community to another, and even more disconcerting because the result is all too predictable – rich, white men experience no adversity but spend their time and energy proclaiming that forces are against them, complaining that mass media have waged a war against them.

While tireless claims are made about “media’s war” on conservatives, it’s clear that the right wing continues waging war against basic human rights.

Transgender lives exist. And they matter. And they’re beautiful. And their rights should be fought for. Instead, what little progress was made by the Barack Obama Administration is being undone.

By rolling back the rights of transgender students to use their preferred bathrooms, the Trump Administration risks increased death and bullying amongst trans kids. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported in 2015 that 67 percent of hate-related homicides against the LGBT community were directed toward transgender people, with almost half of those homicides resulting in the deaths of trans women of color.

Much of the argument in favor of suppressing trans rights revolves around transphobic ideology that is rooted in a lack of knowledge. Those who don’t fully understand the transgender community consider trans people to be “cross-dressing” or express concern about whether their sons or daughters will be sexually or physically assaulted in the bathroom or locker room.

The scenarios used as fuel to reinforce the barring of bathroom rights are fear tactics. Rigid bathroom laws or not, people we do not know or trust can still enter private spaces and put others at risk. Regardless of whether or not trans students are able to use their preferred bathroom, rapists and murderers can still go above or against the law to find and assault their targets.

In all actuality, is a piece of paper or a sign on a door going to stop someone from going in the opposite gender’s restroom to assault someone?

What those fighting against transgender rights overlook is that transgender people have existed longer than bathroom laws and have been using their preferred bathroom with no cause for alarm.

What people fail to realize is that this issue is so much bigger than doing your business – it’s about the right to exist freely and be seen as normal in society. If there are laws barring the trans community from doing something as simple as using the bathroom, their acceptance in the public sector will be even more limited than it already is.

Trans people, like everyone else, deserve to exist and represent themselves in public spaces. Many universities, including Fresno State, have incorporated multiple gender-inclusive restrooms on campus.

How can we expect students, employees and citizens to thrive in a society that doesn’t deem them real or important?

If Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions or President Donald Trump continue with the decision to rollback basic human rights, they cannot expect transgender students to succeed academically or as functioning members of society.

If students do not feel seen, represented or visible in their place of work or school environment, how can they be expected to succeed?

It’s not about “special snowflakes needing a safe space.” It’s about letting trans students feel as accepted as the rest of their student body.

Trans students have every right to feel as visible as every other student, and by adding to their visibility, we add to their success.