More

President Obama stood up for trans students in a HUGE way. Here's what you need to know.

The administration alerts schools everywhere to respect trans students' gender identities.

President Obama stood up for trans students in a HUGE way. Here's what you need to know.

On Friday morning, the Obama administration issued guidance urging school districts around the country to treat transgender students equally.

This comes just days after Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke her way into the history books in addressing the transgender community directly, saying, "The Department of Justice and the entire Obama administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward."

With today's letter, it looks like the administration is taking major steps in putting action behind those words. And. It. Is. Awesome.


Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

But let's take a moment to address what are sure to be some common questions about this guidance, shall we?

1. What is it?

It's essentially a letter to the schools from the president. And while it's not legally binding, it's putting school districts across the country on notice not to discriminate against transgender students; after all, they survive based on federal funding and should follow federal guidelines.

“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so," the letter reads.

That's pretty freakin' huge. Just a few years ago, to think the word "transgender" would even be part of the president's vocabulary would seem like a stretch. Now, he's out there dishing out guidelines and showing support like it's nobody's business.

2. Why now?

Given everything that's going on in North Carolina regarding the state's new controversial law that paints trans people as predators, the dueling lawsuits between the administration and the state — and just the general sense of hostility trans people are facing — now's as good a time as ever to remind everybody what the administration's position on trans student rights is.

Also, the alternative to this is ... having North Carolina-style battles state by state? That sounds exhausting.

When Fox News says you've gone too far... GIF from Fox News.

3. What kind of discrimination will this address?

Specifically, this deals with restrooms and locker rooms. Trans girls (i.e., girls who were assigned male at birth) and trans boys (i.e., boys who were assigned female at birth) should be able to use girls' and boys' restrooms respectively. This complements 2014 guidelines from the Department of Education clarifying that trans students are covered under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. This guidance from the presidential administration just clarifies it a bit more.

In other words, trans students need to be protected the same way we protect other groups on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, etc.

This will affect students like 15-year-old Jazz Jennings. Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

4. But whoa, whoa, whoa: Won't this put students at risk of being spied on by students who are only pretending to be transgender?

No, no — a thousand times no. It might sound like a valid concern, but some of the largest school districts in in the country have had trans-inclusive policies in place for yeeeeeaars without aaaaaany incidents of that happening.

While some people (looking at you, Mike Huckabee) jokingly say they'd like to act out the plot of "Ladybugs" in real life, it just doesn't actually happen.

Um, Gov. Huckabee...? And do people still take group showers in schools anyway?

5. Why are restrooms so important anyway? Why can't trans kids just use restrooms separate from other students?

While this sounds like a reasonable compromise, quarantining them away from other students doesn't exactly say, "Hi! We see you for who you are!" so much as "You're weeeeeird!"

But what's the big deal about letting trans students use restrooms that match their consistently-held gender identity (again, no, a male cisgender person cannot just go, "Today, I feel like a woman" and then switch between genders to spy on women)? I mean, if you're seeing other people's genitals when you use the bathroom, you're bathrooming wrong. No one's privacy is being invaded (no one has a right to know what your genitals look like, regardless of whether you're trans or not), and people really need to chill out.

What exactly do you think people do in bathrooms?

And there needs to be consistency across the country. Imagine a trans boy in California, who's been using the boys' bathroom, moves into a different school district in another state and suddenly has to undergo an embarrassing public battle to get his gender recognized by his new school district.

6. How will people react to this announcement?

Prepare for this to be presented in a way that makes it seem like the gates of hell have been opened and innocent souls are being pulled into fiery sinkholes in the shapes of those bathroom sign stick figures that are like half-dress and half-pants.

Like this, but with fire, OK?

7. What do the 2016 presidential candidates think about this?

The two remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination would appear to be on the president's side on the matter, as they've both denounced North Carolina's anti-trans law and put forward very LGBT-inclusive platforms.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump at first said he didn't care what bathroom people use and that he didn't think North Carolina's law was a good one, but then switched his position, saying that states should be allowed to handle things at their level (as North Carolina is doing).

Additionally, the Republican National Committee "calls on the Department of Education to rescind itsinterpretation of Title IX that wrongly includes facility use issues by transgender students" and "encourages state legislatures to enact laws thatprotect student privacy and limit the use of restrooms, locker rooms, and similar facilities to members ofthe sex to whom the facility is designated." So, it's safe to say they're not exactly fans.

8. What happens now?

It's anybody's guess really. It looks like both sides on this issue are getting ready for a long, ugly fight. However radical this seems right now, there will be a day where it seems hard to believe this was ever an issue. When you're on the right side of history — as the Obama administration is in this case — you'll come out on top.

We need to see past the talking points and the hypothetical horror stories and dig deep in our hearts to offer these students some compassion. This is a BIG step forward.

Thanks, Obama. For reals.

True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

Sir David Attenborough has one of the most recognized and beloved voices in the world. The British broadcaster and nature historian has spent most of his 94 years on Earth educating humanity about the wonders of the natural world, inspiring multiple generations to care about the planet we all call home.

And now, Attenborough has made a new name for himself. Not only has he joined the cool kids on Instagram, he's broken the record for reaching a million followers in the shortest period. It only took four hours and 44 minutes, which is less time than it took Jennifer Aniston, who held the title before him at 5 hours and 16 minutes.

A day later, Attenborough is sitting at a whopping 3.4 million followers. And he only has two Instagram posts so far, both of them videos. But just watch his first one and you'll see why he's attracted so many fans.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


Schools often have to walk a fine line when it comes to parental complaints. Diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences for what kids see and hear will always mean that schools can't please everyone all the time, so educators have to discern what's best for the whole, broad spectrum of kids in their care.

Sometimes, what's best is hard to discern. Sometimes it's absolutely not.

Such was the case this week when a parent at a St. Louis elementary school complained in a Facebook group about a book that was read to her 7-year-old. The parent wrote:

"Anyone else check out the read a loud book on Canvas for 2nd grade today? Ron's Big Mission was the book that was read out loud to my 7 year old. I caught this after she watched it bc I was working with my 3rd grader. I have called my daughters school. Parents, we have to preview what we are letting the kids see on there."

Keep Reading Show less

One night in 2018, Sheila and Steve Albers took their two youngest sons out to dinner. Their 17-year-old son, John, was in a crabby mood—not an uncommon occurrence for the teen who struggled with mental health issues—so he stayed home.

A half hour later, Sheila's started getting text messages that John wasn't safe. He had posted messages with suicidal ideations on social media and his friends had called the police to check on him. The Albers immediately raced home.

When they got there, they were met with a surreal scene. Their minivan was in the neighbor's yard across the street. John had been shot in the driver's seat six times by a police officer who had arrived to check on him. The officer had fired two shots as the teen slowly backed the van out of the garage, then 11 more after the van spun around backward. But all the officers told the Albers was that John had "passed" and had been shot. They wouldn't find out until the next day who had shot and killed him.

Keep Reading Show less