Transgender Students in The Big Apple

Posted by Emma Brownstein
(@Emma Brownstein)

When the nation erupts into craziness, alternative facts and twitter banter, protests and snowflakes, New York City tends to remain a constant. It never fails to uphold its reputation of liberalism. So when Trump rescinded the 2016 Title Nine policies that protect transgender students last February, The New York City Department of education did not hesitate to implement its own institutionalized protections for students of all gender identities.

Gender Neutral Sign
Photo by: James. W Porter/Fuse

The Guidelines

The Department of Education issued updated Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student Guidelines on March 1, 2017, only days after the Trump administration withdrew national protections for students. The guidelines address everything from the definition of “gender expression” to what to expect in gym class, asides from the normal sweating and dodge-ball games.

The new guidelines reflect the stereotypical New York mindset, starting with a quote by Walter Annenberg, saying “If we lack respect for one group, then there is a tendency for that attitude to spread. It becomes infectious and no one becomes safe from the ravages of prejudice.” That being said, the guidelines don’t require schools to have gender neutral bathroom options. Students are allowed to use the bathroom that fits with their identity, but what about the kids who aren’t a he or a she?

Gender Neutral Bathroom Options?

Since 2016, New York City has implemented legislation that requires single-occupancy restrooms in public spaces to be gender-neutralized. Yelp even has a function on the app that lets users find the nearest gender neutral bathroom near them, which is a lifesaver regardless of gender identity. But where are the gender non-binary students of more than 1,800 public schools supposed to go?

More recently, The DOE realized that discrepancy and caught up with state legislation. On May 2nd, 2017, the New York City Department of Education Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, announced that all New York City schools will have single-stalled, gender-neutral restrooms for all students, regardless of medical documentation or permission by January 2018. “This initiative should serve as a reminder that the needs of all students deserve to be met – in the absence of a distractive bathroom experience that can impede academic achievement. We will continue to find ways to enhance NYC schools to make it possible for students to thrive in dignity and reach their full potential,” said the first lady of NYC, Chirlane McCray.

Transgender Rights
Photo by: The National Center for Transgender Equality/CNN

Big Picture

Great, but why did nonbinary options come second? Even in New York, with it’s reputation and all, there was a month-long pause before gender neutral bathrooms were mandated by the DOE. What does this mean for states that aren’t notoriously liberal? Only time will tell.


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