Mr Obama ordered public schools in May 2016 to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their chosen identity.

Pakistan isn’t the only country that bestows injustices to its transgender community

Since May 2016, transgender students were allowed to use bathrooms according to chosen identity. Trump revoked this.

Purniya Awan February 28, 2017
Pakistan isn’t the only country that bestows injustices onto minority groups residing in its country. We all are aware of the recent violent acts that have taken place against the transgender community, all thanks to social media for spreading awareness on the issue.

Donald Trump’s win as the 45th president of the United States has brought about many conservative and anti-human rights thoughts, which seem to retract the liberal and more inclusive laws set in motion by the former democratic president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Obama ordered public schools in May 2016 to allow transgender students to use bathrooms according to their chosen identity, further threatening to hold back federal funding if schools forced transgender children to use bathrooms against their will. However, recently, the Trump administration has decided to officially revoke this landmark policy. This was considered useful and necessary by transgender rights advocates in order to protect students from discrimination. Although Trump has said countless times that his administration is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community, he also said that the issue of bathroom segregation belongs to the state and local authorities, in which case the federal government should not interfere.

Following this heated ‘bathroom debate’, Caitlyn Jenner, one of the most influential transgender activists in the US joined critics who denounced this decision. Even though Jenner has remained a Trump supporter in the past, she was dumbfounded by this act and, in fact, delivered a blunt warning to Trump in a video posted on Twitter, saying,
“This is a disaster, see you in court.”

Jenner wasn’t the only person who spoke out. Janet Mock, another prominent transgender activist, wrote for The New York Times regarding this very issue. She expressed that the White House did not understand the negative impact this decision would have on transgender student communities across the country. She also wrote,
“It’s adults like those in the Trump administration who don’t realise the consequences of pitting young people against one another, which encourages some to be bullies and turns others into sinister objects.”

Other gay rights supporters have condemned Trump over the Justice Department and Education Department’s rejection of the Obama administration’s position that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identities. Outside the White House, hundreds of people gathered to protest the decision, shouting,
“No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.”

One might think that transgender history is a recent social phenomenon since the first time transgender people started to make the news was after the World War II. The very first well-known post-war transsexual was Christine Jorgensen, a Danish born GI who made headlines in 1954 when she returned to the US after surgery. The first publicly recognised transsexual was Lili Elbe, another Dane. However, transgender people have been around a lot longer than that.

A grave reason why transgender history has been almost invisible is that many transgender individual do not want to be seen as transgender. Rather, they want to be accepted as the gender they feel they should have been born into, and so they go to incredible lengths to hide their identity.

Furthermore, because men who display feminine characteristics are often seen as weak, men in leadership positions in the past have had to hide their femininity or risk being subjected to aggressive male enemies. On the other hand, women have been subjected to oppressive patriarchal notions and thoughts and that has meant severe punishment for daring to express masculinity.

Ironically, it is because of the persecution of people who question and transgress the gender divide that we have a transgender history at all.

Records of these transgressions have been kept a secret and the writers of history have always tried to exclude LGBTQ identities, especially transgender people. Hence, they only become visible when we find out about their exclusion from that very history.

In a highly dichotomic way of life, where strict gender roles are put into place, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to fully express oneself, especially if one does not ‘fit in’. It gets threatening for many people to wrap their heads around ideas that cannot be explained biologically or scientifically.

Time and again, issues regarding minority groups, especially people belonging to the transgender community, are subjected to scrutiny. What Obama did was try to ‘normalise’, for the lack of a better word, the identities of transgender students so they would feel more comfortable utilising services that matched their identity of choice.

This dispute has highlighted the degree to which social issues have been pushed on the priority list in the United States. It will undoubtedly open the door to bullying, harassment and discrimination of children, especially because according to Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign,
“This isn’t a states’ rights issue; it’s a civil rights issue.”
Purniya Awan The writer is a Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies graduate from York University. She has been nominated as a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum, is a Founding Member of a Pakistani legal blog, Courting The Law, and is also the Co-Founder of The Gender Stories (TGS). She identifies as a feminist, and is currently working in Pakistan as a Senior Account Manager at MINT PR. She tweets @purniyaA (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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