OutCasting youth participant Andrew, guest Paul D. Castillo. Paul Castillo photo / Lambda Legal
Part 1 (March 1, 2019)
Part 2 (coming April 1, 2019)
Title IX is a federal law primarily known for preventing educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex. But a less widely understood function of Title IX is protecting transgender students. Denying trans students access to the correct bathrooms, locker rooms, dorms, or sports teams, or otherwise mistreating them for being trans, can cause serious detriment to their health and safety. This is a type of discrimination based on sex, and it’s important that trans students be protected from it.
The U.S. Transgender Survey found that 77% of Americans who were openly transgender in K-12 schooling were mistreated in some way for being trans. In addition, 24% of respondents who were openly trans in college reported being verbally, physically, or sexually harassed. This type of treatment has serious effects on trans people’s well-being. According to the same survey, 40% of trans Americans have attempted suicide, compared to 4.6% of the general U.S. population.
In 2016, the Obama administration issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” stating that “sex discrimination” in Title IX includes discrimination based on gender identity. This guidance drew immense backlash, including complaints that President Obama was overstepping his authority and forcing his personal opinions on local communities. However, the “Dear Colleague Letter” did not actually change legal policy; it was only a statement of how federal courts were already interpreting Title IX, meant to inform schools in making their own policies towards transgender students.
Nonetheless, the backlash led President Trump to rescind the “Dear Colleague Letter” in 2017. This caused public uncertainty about trans students’ legal protections, and it prevented a case concerning the rights of a transgender student from being heard by the Supreme Court.
It’s difficult for the law to be properly enforced unless citizens know their rights. Unfortunately, the uncertainty and misconceptions surrounding Title IX’s protection of trans students means that it can feel like they practically need a law degree to understand their rights. OutCaster Andrew, a transgender high school senior, chose to create this series after being confused about what it means when colleges have “Title IX policies” covering gender identity discrimination. Aware of the political debate over the issue, he couldn’t figure out if those policies were legally binding or not. If trans students don’t understand their legal protections — or if those legal protections aren’t upheld — it can be difficult or impossible to secure the fair treatment they deserve.
In this two-part OutCasting series, OutCaster Andrew talks with Paul D. Castillo, who is Counsel and Students’ Rights Strategist at the South Central Regional Office of Lambda Legal in Dallas. They discuss Title IX and its protections for transgender students in terms of how these policies came to be, recent political developments, legal interpretations, and the effects on trans students.