On June 1, the first day of Pride Month 2021, nearly 300 educational and civil rights organizations, including UnidosUS, signed a letter sponsored by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights calling for the “full inclusion of transgender students in educational opportunities, including extracurricular activities such as athletics.”
The aim of the letter is to draw attention to the ways a series of bills could discriminate against cisgender and transgender girls, especially those of color, and potentially violate the U.S. Constitution and Title XI, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or educational program receiving federal funds.
“We reject the bigoted, ignorant, mean-spirited, and discriminatory policies currently being considered by far too many legislators that seek to exclude these members of our communities. Excluding transgender students from participation alongside cisgender peers is harmful to all students and undermines the learning environment for everyone,” the letter states.
Citing multiple studies, the letter notes that transgender students are at greater risk of sex discrimination, including sexual assault in school, and that murders against transgender women have reached epidemic proportions.
“Simply put, preventing transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s athletics is a recipe for more trauma, bullying, and violence,” the letter states.
The letter also notes that researchers have found no evidence that transgender participation in girls’ sports has created unfair competition. On the contrary, studies have shown that bills pushing for the ban of such participation could further exacerbate existing discrimination for girls who do not present themselves according to traditional notions of femininity, one dominated by white cultural norms. Plus, many of the bills require that students go through a physical exam to check their genitalia, a practice that is not only invasive, it could potentially lead to molestation.
“There are numerous examples of sex discrimination that continue to harm girls and women in sports— including fewer athletic opportunities, second-class facilities and equipment, and sexual abuse by coaches, doctors, and other students— but banning transgender girls and women from participating in sports would not solve any of these problems,” the letter states.
ED Secretary has also been firm in his support of LGBTQ rights. During his confirmation hearings earlier this year, he stated: “I think it’s the legal responsibility of schools to provide opportunities for students to participate in activities, and this includes students who are transgender.”
LGBTQ and Latinx Students
UnidosUS signed the letter to show support for all students impacted these bills, and as a way to advocate for the Latinx population it traditionally serves. In 2019, it published ALAS I: Welcoming LGBTQ Youth, a toolkit aimed at educating the public about LGBTQ Latinx students and offering information and advice on how to support them.
Through this work, UnidosUS has learned the following:
- There are more than one million LGBTQ immigrants living in the United States, including 190,000 who are Latinx LGBTQ undocumented immigrants.
- 75,000 LGBTQ Latinx students are participants of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA).
- 72%% of LGBTQ Latinx students report feeling unsafe in the classroom
- 31% of LGBTQ youth have received verbal threats because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- 79% of LGBTQ youth report feeling depressed or down, 73% say they feel worthless or hopeless, and 82% say they usually feel worried, nervous, or panicked.
- Only 6% of Latinx youth said they would feel comfortable discussing LGBTQ identity with a counselor.
“We at UnidosUS have always stressed the importance of acceptance and diversity in the classroom. LGBTQ+ youth, particularly transgender students, deserve every right to feel a sense of safety and belonging in their school communities and be empowered to celebrate their authentic selves,” says UnidosUS Education Policy Advisor Kendall Evans.