The Trump Administration set off an uproar across the nation’s LGBTQ communities last week after it decided not to defend transgender protections for restroom access in schools.
That uproar included transgender students attending the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) who reacted with feelings of disgust and betrayal.
The administration’s move was “insensitive and inappropriate,” said Beacon Salinas, an 18-year-old senior at Renaissance High School for the Arts who identifies as transgender.
“Trans [students who] are transitioning need an accepting country … and having a bathroom you’re not comfy in can lead to dysphoria and can mentally screw up somebody,” he added.
During his presidency, Barack Obama released guidelines for schools to allow transgender students access to restrooms and locker rooms for the gender they identify with. Though these federal guidelines were put on hold in court, Trump’s team decided not to further defend them, arguing in a memo Wednesday that the matter is best left up to states and school districts.
Charlie Chavez, 17 and a senior at Renaissance High School for the Arts who is also transgender, initially was filled with disgust after hearing about the Trump Administration’s decision. He described Trump as a bigot, arguing that he lied about protecting the LGBTQ community during the election campaign and that he is now turning against them.
Some youth worry that Trump’s move reflects a regression for the country. Salinas described the woman’s suffrage and civil rights movements as seeming “irrelevant because of how [Trump is] running things.”
In 2013, California was the first state to protect transgender student rights’ to gender-affirming restrooms, locker rooms and access to school activities. Within hours of the Trump memo’s release, The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach and LBUSD each put out statements.
Citing California education codes, the district stated that “transgender students in LBUSD will remain protected regardless of the new executive order by the Trump Administration pertaining to access to restrooms and locker rooms.”
Students will be allowed to use facilities “consistent with one’s identity,” it stated.
It was “as if I’m not allowed to be the person I identify as,” said Nico Masalosalo, a Long Beach City College student who attended LBUSD high schools and graduated last year, in regards to Trump’s decision.
Masalosalo, 17, said he generally felt safe at LBUSD schools because he was able to express himself, but a trip to the restroom would often end in conflict between students and staff.
His teachers and school staff at Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo High School told him to use restrooms matching his assigned gender, which made him uncomfortable, he said. The girls in those restrooms, uncomfortable with his gender identity, also threatened to report him. Eventually he stopped using the restroom altogether and would wait until he got home.
LBUSD has had transgender student protections for preferred restrooms written into its non-discrimination policy since 2014. Students such as Masalosalo feel the policy needed to carry more weight.
“They didn’t really enforce it at schools as much as they should’ve,” said Masalosalo. “I think they should educate themselves more about the transgender community.”
After the policy’s revision in 2014, Masalosalo said that his conflicts over restroom use occurred less frequently. When he transferred to Reid Senior High School in 2015, he found a very different environment, he said.
“The teachers were very supportive. They even let me use the staff restrooms,” he recalled. “They were very accepting.”
Other transgender students agree that feelings of comfort and support vary from school to school in LBUSD.
At Renaissance High School for the Arts, Chavez lauded how his school was the “best,” “safe” and most LGBTQ friendly. Chavez pointed out a history and social science teacher by name, Mr. Ryan Bryne, as an example of an instructor who respects name changes and pronouns, and who treats everyone with equal respect.
Salinas, who attends the same campus, said he largely felt supported by staff and always had access to preferred restrooms.
“I felt super comfortable about myself, and in school I felt safe,” he said. “All teachers are respectful and have their personal beliefs, but they don’t affect others.” But he also expressed his concern for students attending other campuses.
Porter Gilberg of The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, said via email that the center “has an incredibly positive relationship with LBUSD… We have a long history of working together proactively to ensure that all students are afforded the opportunity to learn and thrive at school.”
For Salinas, Chavez, and Masalosalo, their hope is that all transgender students living under President Trump’s administration can feel supported in every school.
“Because we’re people, too,” Masalosalo said.
Click to read a transgender ally guide for educators (Bottom of article).