Faith in America - The stigma attached to transgender identity creates a profound public health crisis for these kids. One-in-four transgender youth attempt suicide and at least half struggle with suicidal ideation. And, they are 8x more likely to succeed at taking their own lives than their straight peers. A rule that focuses on whether this is a matter for the states or federal government misses the point. Historically, civil rights have not been adequately protected by “state’s rights.” In fact, a “states rights” strategy has aided and abetted opportunities for bad actors in the religious community to discriminate, or encourage discrimination, within the public.
The first question we must be asking is whether we are keeping our kids safe, and that must be the lens through which we decide whether states or the federal government are better at doing so. The canard that these laws protect a young woman from having perverted men in the bathroom or locker room is extremely misleading. There are laws against indecent exposure and harassment. In all the media hoopla, there is little mention of the real needs of these vulnerable transgender youths.
Such sobering statistics are well accounted for by the Meyers Minority Status Stress Model which recognizes the role stigma plays in inordinately higher rates of suicide, homelessness, serious mental illness and substance use disorders. Research supports that 65% of these students encounter derogatory terms such as “faggot” or “dyke” on a daily basis, 85% have been verbally harassed in the last year, and 30% have missed at least one day of school due to feeling unsafe.
The insufficiency of the additional verbiage the Secretary of Education resigned herself to, “Schools must ensure that transgender students, like all students, are able to learn in a safe environment,” grossly fails to grasp the unique challenges to safety these students face each day.