Bathroom Rules Contribute to the Murders of Trans Women

Last week, the Trump administration reversed federal guidance outlining protections for transgender students, the same week that Jaquarrius HollandChyna Doll Dupree, and Ciara McElveenthree Black trans women, were murdered in New Orleans.Since reports of their deaths, there has been an outpouring of love on social media for these women. After initial news reports misgendered her, Jaquarrius’ family and friends took to social media to correctly identify her as transgender. Her friend, Chesna Littleberry, described the 18-year-old as being someone who loved wearing makeup and doing her hair; she also set up a GoFundMe to cover Jaquarrius’ funeral costs. People have highlighted Chyna’s talent as a drag performer by sharing their favorite performances of hers (check out the video shared below, which has over 80,000 views).

This horrific violence has left the trans community in New Orleans living in fear. With news spreading of Ciara and Chyna’s murders within two days of each other, Ciara’s friend, Syria Sinclaire disclosed to Mic that she was afraid to leave her house. Organizations, like New Orleans-based BreakOUT! are organizing vigils and spaces for trans and gender non-conforming people to gather, while trans-led groups are reminding us that violence against trans people is normalized through policies which paint them as “other,” or dangerous – like the bathroom rules which Trump just enabled.

Let’s review how we got here. In May 2016, the Department of Education issued a memo to public schools explaining that Title XI not only protects students from gender-based discrimination, but also protect trans students from discrimination based on their gender identity, including access to the appropriate bathroom based on their gender identity. Following this memo, 12 states sued the federal government to block the guidance, out of fear that their federal funding could be in jeopardy for schools that were not in compliance.

A few months later, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in favor of the states for a temporary injunction, claiming that Title IX only says that schools cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, which is defined by biology and anatomy. The Obama administration hoped that the injunction could be contained to the states in the lawsuit until it could be overturned. However before it could be heard, the Trump Department of Justice issued a brief stating they would no longer be appealing the decision and has now reversed guidance that states interpret Title IX to protect trans students.

By prioritizing the rights of states to discriminate against transgender children, the Trump administration is formally institutionalizing discrimination against transgender people based on harmful stereotypes. The predominant argument used to justify anti-trans bathroom policies has been cisgender women and girls’ safety. This line of thinking is built on the idea that trans people, especially trans women, are actually men in disguise who could sexually assault cis women when they are using the bathroom. These ideas are absurd, as we know that trans people are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it. This is validated by the lack luster response to the 7 murders of trans women this year, with 5 of them occurring in February alone.

Black trans women continue to be their own strongest advocates, calling for action to stop the violence. Grace Dolan-Sandrino, a 16-year-old black transgender girl, writes for Teen Vogue that the Trump administration actions are denying and violating trans students’ human rights. In an MSNBC interview, Laverne Cox explicitly pointed out that anti-trans bathroom bills and rhetoric is ultimately about challenging trans people’s rights to exist in public spaces and about erasing them.

Jessica Mason Pieklo of Rewire argues that by removing federal guidance for protecting transgender children from discrimination, this move by the Trump administration is “legally meaningless” because trans students are still protected under Title IX – but states now have the authority to determine how and if trans students will be accommodated, and many states certainly will not prioritize the best interests of these students.

This should be a major indicator to cisgender people that we must do more to protect trans people. If we are invested in fighting for the safety of women, we must make sure that we are fighting for all women – including trans women like Chyna, Jaquarrius, and Ciara.

Header via ABC7 Chicago.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South. She holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in Sociology from Georgia State University, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from her alma mater. She is a member on the board of directors of Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, and is a former content creator for the The Body Is Not An Apology. As a femme, feminist, and queer Black woman, it is through her lived experiences and complex identities that Quita has come to believe in the power of storytelling and the validation of lived experiences.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South.

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