Bathrooms just became less safe for trans students. Here's what to do now.

Transgender kids desperately need our help.

The path toward justice for transgender people in America is not a straight one.

Since the Trump administration seized the steering wheel in the White House, setbacks have halted — and even reversed — progress for transgender Americans when it comes to accessing safe bathrooms. There’s no sign these setbacks will stop in the months and years ahead.

Photo by Arno Burgi/AFP/Getty Images.


If you believe in transgender rights, don't feel helpless. The transgender community needs us now more than ever.

Here are 15 ways to show trans people you're in their corner:

1. Know the facts.

On one hand, research finds many transgender people are harassed or physically assaulted while being forced to use a restroom that doesn't correspond with their gender. On the other hand, the idea that ensuring trans people equal bathroom access will somehow legalize the right for a predator to wander into a women's bathroom is a classic case of fear-mongering born from a myth.

Use the facts to make your case when discussing trans rights with those who want to learn more.

2. Know what policies are in place in your own community's school district.

Trump's reversal on trans students' bathroom rights will likely leave schools making more decisions about restroom regulations. Find out what (if any) policies are in place at the schools near you and advocate for trans students who need you in your own backyard.

Image via iStock.

3. Become a Trevor ambassador for the Trevor Project, the nation's leading LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization.

As calls to their 24/7 hotline surged in the aftermath of the election, the Trevor Project was one of the critical groups providing aid to young people in desperate need.

Many young trans people will rely on them in the months ahead, and volunteers will be crucial. You can become a Trevor ambassador in a city near you and spare some time to help the group do its life-changing work.

4. If you know a transgender kid, reach out to their parents to see if it's OK for you to send your love.

A sweet card, a warm hug, or a trip to the ice cream parlor — just to say "You are loved" — can make all the difference. If you know a transgender adult, reach out to them and see how you, as an ally, can best help efforts toward equality in your own community.

Image via iStock.

5. Fund the resistance through Lambda Legal, a group using the law to help protect trans kids from Trump's policies.

"While the Trump-Pence administration wages its war on children, we at Lambda Legal will redouble our efforts to protect transgender and other vulnerable kids," the group said in a statement. "We are already in court fighting for transgender students, and we are prepared to sue any school district that discriminates in the wake of the Trump administration’s actions."

6. Write a reassuring message to trans students online using the #ProtectTransKids hashtag.

The hashtag, which began trending Feb. 22, is being used to send notes of love and solidarity to anyone who could use it.

7. And while you're on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, share this image to let everyone know where you stand.

1 in 3 transgender youth has tried to commit suicide. These kids need more protection, not less. #ProtectTransKids

A post shared by Liz Plank (@feministabulous) on

8. If it's the right fit for you, become a member of Fierce, or tell someone else about the opportunity.

A New York City-based group, Fierce runs youth-led campaigns and leadership development programs so more young, queer people of color feel empowered to influence the world around them today and in the years ahead.

9. Get involved with the Human Rights Campaign.

HRC is the nation's leading political advocacy group for LGBTQ rights, and equal bathroom access is one of its most important issues.

10. Find out if the schools in your community have a Gay-Straight Alliance.

Again, Trump's decision will give state and local school districts more room to discriminate when it comes to bathroom access. This makes it even more crucial that you know what's happening in the schools in your own neighborhood.

The Gay-Straight Alliance is one group that operates at the local level, helping build bridges between straight, cisgender students and their LGBTQ peers.

Find out if there's a GSA program in your own school district. If there's not, help start one.

11. Take part in a local or national event held by GLSEN, a group committed to making sure every grade school in America is safe for LGBTQ students.

Among many services, the nonprofit does extensive research on how and why schools are failing queer kids and provides resources to educators to help fix the problems.

"While the Trump administration may abandon transgender students, GLSEN won’t," the group's executive director, Dr. Eliza Byard, said in a statement.

12. Buy a shirt from Trans Lifeline and help save lives.

Similarly to the Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline runs a hotline for any transgender person in need. Trans Lifeline, however, is operated solely by trans staffers for trans people, which can make a difference to those seeking help.

If you purchase a shirt from their online store, proceeds go toward helping the group fulfill and expand its mission of saving and bettering lives.

13. Learn more about the causes of LGBTQ youth homelessness, and fight for change.

It's vital we fight for transgender rights when it comes to bathrooms, but we also can't forget about the thousands of trans youth across the country made homeless simply because of their gender identity. Groups like the Ali Forney Center, the Happy Hippie Foundation, My Friend's Place, and the True Colors Fund are fighting every day to help homeless LGBTQ youth access stable housing, employment, and an education.

14. Watch and share this powerful video featuring a trans girl and her loving family on Facebook.

The more people see it, the more hearts and minds will open.

15. Donate to the Hetrick-Martin Institute.

The nonprofit, which began as a grassroots effort in 1979, now provides social programs — like arts and culture, job readiness, and health and wellness initiatives — for LGBTQ people ages 13-24 in and around New York City. It does great work, but it needs your help.

Transgender people have always needed our love and support, but this is a particularly critical moment when each one of us can make a difference.

Whether it's donating what you can, sharing a note online, or simply giving a warm hug, you might be the person a student — maybe in your own community — needs this very moment. Show them you care.

This article was updated on March 6, 2017.

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Today, I'm a 35-year-old man with a flame shaved into my beard. If the '80s movies I love so much are any indication, this is a sure sign I'm going through some kind of existential crisis. Next week, when the semester starts and I begin teaching again, it will not be strange if my colleagues start to worry about me just a little. A sports car or a neck-jerking pivot to physical fitness — that's an understandable response to the realization that life is fleeting. But a large meticulous flame carved out of facial hair? What does one do with that?

At this moment, though, I'm showing my face proudly to a woman wearing a swimsuit with a taco cat on it. We have only recently met, but she's telling me that she's so into my "fade" that she wants to kiss it. Then she does, blowing a raspberry into my cheek so hard that her hat falls off. Neither of us can stop laughing.

"Live Mas!" she yells with the excitement of someone who's never had trouble fully seizing the moment.

"Live Mas!" I shout back without any irony. There is no irony here in Palm Springs, where, for four days only, hundreds of people celebrate their love for Taco Bell.

Here, there's only swimming and hot sauce-themed leisure wear, and the warm pleasant feeling that comes from eating too much and knowing that you're with your own people. Even if the only thing that connects you is a love for a fast food giant that feeds you when you're hammered and shameless at 2 a.m.

We drank the Baja Blast! My Taco Bell fade and my friend's specialty manicure!Mark Shrayber

What does it mean to Live Mas? This is a question I am forced to ask myself over and over during my 24-hour stay at "The Bell," where I have stowed away as a friend's plus-one. We are, of course, both politely pretending that I'm a full-on guest with all the perks that entails, but we also both know that I wouldn't be here eating unlimited quesadillas poolside without her.

So maybe that's the first thing Live Mas means: To build strong lifelong connections which you can, with some luck, exploit to your benefit. :) :) :)

But this is too cynical an interpretation, because everyone here is so happy. Happy that they've gotten a reservation; happy that they can cool off in a room themed after an iconic Mountain Dew Drink, and happy that they can share their own personal story of what Taco Bell means to them. (Though there's no formal essay contest — I've checked.)

Me: This room won't be that cool. Also me: OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE COOLEST ROOM I'VE EVER BEEN IN!!!Mark Shrayber

Snatches of this story float around the "Fire" pool, where all the entertainment is concentrated: One couple canceled their trip to Prague because "Prague will always be there" — a brave stance considering climate change; another met last year on Tinder after the girlfriend's Taco Bell senior photos went viral; at the opening ceremony on Thursday, where sauce packets were cut instead of a ribbon, a city official brought others to tears with both her Taco Bell fashion and a memory of how her parents would feed an entire family with 19-cent-tacos from the first-ever Taco Bell in Downey, California.

Oh, I forgot one: The guy who skipped out on Prague? He got a giant bell shaved into the side of his head, so he might have to miss out on a black-tie event happening later this week. But it's all good. Bring on the nacho fries.

I make fast friends with four women who are here for a bachelorette party, the bride overwhelmed with good vibes and prosecco. This year, for her 30th, she rented a party bus. Inside? $100 worth of Taco Bell that her fiancee was worried might not be consumed.

"But little did he know," she shouts in the hot tub where we're "cooling off" after a long day of 108-degree sunning, "we ate it all!"

A bachelorette party and a birthday! We're really living it up (but also staying hydrated.)Mark Shrayber

Others whoop it up at the twist, but we all get it. Though there's no essay contest, I don't mind telling you that when my first boyfriend dumped me 14 years ago, I stuffed my face with chalupas. When I lost a job I really loved four years ago, I once ordered so much Taco Bell that the delivery app of my choice informed me I'd exceeded the maximum number of items they could comfortably fill in one order. We get it — though none of us can truly explain it.

There are, if you look at the The Bell from a literary perspective, many other writers who deserve this experience more than me. They could talk about the blue of the pool. Or the insouciance of youth. Draw parallels between marketing stunts such as this and the end-stage capitalism. Or envision a "Demolition Man" future where Taco Bell is fine dining and none of us know how to use the three shells in the bathroom to get ourselves clean.

And I wish these writers could be here to paint you these landscapes, but what you've got is me, a literal Taco Bell super-fan, and what I'm doing is eating and getting sunburned and taking a synchronized swimming class with the Aqualillies, who refer to themselves as "the world's most glamorous water ballet entertainment," but have very little idea of what to do with 10 eager recruits who can't stay afloat or on beat.


G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!!Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

"It's okay," one of the instructors comforts me just before the Tacolilies (the name of our "team") are invited to perform our watery version of "Senorita" — which was supposed to be two minutes long, then 1:15, and has now been judiciously cut down, due to talent, to about 45 seconds — in the bigger pool. "We regularly teach five-year-olds. And you're doing much better."

Usually, I would take offense at such blatant reads, but today I'm unbothered. I'll continue to be so right until I get home and discover that I've left all my electronics on United Flight 5223 (if anyone wants to get them back to me). And even then, I rage at myself for all of five seconds before checking that I've still got what's important: A certificate that says I did not drown while doing water ballet.

It's still there. As is my phone, which is blowing up with messages from people who took pictures of me in what Taco Bell calls its "power suit," and which is best described as "cult outfit, but kinda make it fashion." I bought my husband one, too, and I look forward to the argument we're going to have about holiday cards later.

This is "Live Mas."

I've never been so happy to match with someone else in my life. MaMark Shrayber

Or maybe it's the moment another stranger tells me that we'll be friends forever. Such friendships are forged quickly when you've got less than 24 hours to make lifelong connections and I'm pleased to get the full experience.

"We may never meet again," he says while we're swimming, "but we'll always have this time together."

Then we establish that he lives just across the park from me in San Francisco.

"Aw, man," he says, floating away to take pictures of the people he came with, "I've got lots of close friends I never see because they live across that damn park."

But the sentiment holds.

We Live Mas it on.

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