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Transgender protections are civil rights

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A child holds up a sign during a rally held in solidarity with transgender youth outside City Hall in San Francisco on Thursday. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Thankfully, San Francisco will not be directly harmed by the Trump administration’s edict last week killing federal protections that allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity, but it was a despicable and heartless act that does real harm to many children across the country.

It was the latest in constant flow of outrages perpetrated by President Donald Trump and his team on the American people, and we should not stand for it. The hits keep coming in such quick succession that it becomes dizzying and seemingly insignificant to pause over any single one to express outrage. But we must not let the offenses to dignity and liberty go unanswered.

On Thursday, the good news was that hundreds came to San Francisco City Hall to denounce the federal order against transgender protection in schools. Now, in the absence of a federal directive, states are left decide the matter for their residents.

For all of our children in California who will continue to be allowed to use the bathroom that is appropriate to them, there are countless others elsewhere who will be deprived of that right. As Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign told the New York Times, “The consequences of this decision will no doubt be heartbreaking. This isn’t a state’s right issue, it’s a civil rights issue.”

There is something monstrous and inhumane about a president, and the mechanisms of a federal government, concerning himself with prohibiting how a child can use a bathroom. The argument that offering bathroom choice exposes children to predators is ludicrous. The child predator in this case is the federal government.

Mayor Ed Lee, Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh and Board of Education President Shamann Walton issued a joint statement Wednesday condemning the order as a “misguided act.” They should have described their displeasure in stronger terms, but at least they went on record saying, “All students deserve to learn in an atmosphere that is free of fear and discrimination. While attending school, no child should feel overwhelmed by the simple decision of which bathroom to use, or fear the consequences of entering a locker room.”

This is a basic issue of respecting human dignity and of seeing people as they are and wish to be seen. If our schools are not places where such awareness is protected and encouraged, then we are in a troubling spot.

State Sen. Scott Wiener told the San Francisco Examiner on Friday that the directive stripping rights from transgender students revealed the true nature of the Trump administration. He said all Trump’s assurances that he will be a friend of the LGBT community are “ridiculous.”

“This administration is an enemy to the LGBT community, and it always will be,” Wiener said. “We knew that eventually they were going to go after us, it was just a matter of when and how. And they decided their first act of antagonism toward the LGBT community was going to be toward children, children who are some of the most marginalized and powerless members of our society, trans and gender-nonconforming kids who are being bullied, who are lacking access to all the health care they need, who are at risk of violence, who maybe are being rejected by their parents. And these children are the ones Donald Trump chose to go after? It’s reprehensible.”

California has strong protections in place to protect transgender children, but that is not enough. The matter may soon be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear next month the case of a high school student in Virginia who wants to use the bathroom of their choice. It was unclear last week how Trump’s reversal of the federal order might affect the case.

“We believe federal law protects these kids in terms of being able to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity,” Wiener said. “Hopefully we will win in the Supreme Court. If we don’t win that means we just have to start doing everything we can to pass laws.”

We must not give in or give up. No matter the result of the court case, this is our fight to lead.

Michael Howerton is editor in chief of the San Francisco Examiner.

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