Photograph by Geoff Livingston
Dear Mr. President,
You like to be right. You had a chance to be on the right side of history.
You like to build things. You had the chance to be on the foundational end of building a more inclusive and safer world for our children.
You consider yourself an enforcer, a powerful man. You could have enforced a basic human rights issue: that of the right to be able to pee.
You like to be compared to famous people. You could have been the Abraham Lincoln of the right for all students to safely urinate without needless obsession about their genitalia or birth certificates.
And yet, you caved. You backed down from your statements about bathroom laws, and you caved to the fetishization of trans people. “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate,” you said. “There has been so little trouble.” And yet, you couched your beliefs about the need to “protect all people, even though it’s a tiny percentage of 1 percent” with the hopes that “most states would ‘make the right decisions.’” You caved to the fetishization of “States’ Rights” over “Human Rights,” knowing full well that states often willingly trample on human rights until they are forced to recognize human rights for all.
You caved to the right to discriminate.
The federal government has a duty to uphold and protect and even establish rights that pockets of our union might not be ready to accept. But just because they are not yet ready to end their discrimination does not mean that the discrimination is okay. Sometimes the federal government needs to lead the way.
States were wrong about slavery.
States were wrong about secession.
States were wrong about the definition of marriage.
States were wrong about separate but equal facilities.
States are often wrong.
You had a chance to be right.
I beg you to look into your own soul, and consider what protections you would want for your own family members. You cannot deny those protections to others. And you cannot hide under the banner of States’ Rights.
I beg you to educate yourself, by reading the Transgender Lives stories hosted at the New York Times website, and by visiting the National Center for Transgender Equality website. Read the Human Rights Campaign resources. And while you’re at it, educate yourself on Transgender Law. Step outside of your bubble of fear and fearmongering and talk to the people you were elected to lead. Talk to all of them.
I beg you to put an end to this ridiculous obsession to control where people pee by reinstating the federal guidelines that provided protections to transgender students.
You have a chance to do the right thing, and to be on the right side of history. Because, eventually, this issue will be resolved nationally. The right to discriminate based on gender will be eliminated within your lifetime by the enforcement of Title IX…much like the right to own people was eliminated in 1865 by the 13th Amendment (except, of course, when it comes to prisons, but that is another letter).And you have a chance to be a strong leader, and tell those States who wish to discriminate that they are wrong. Tell all of them.
Do not push down to the States those issues that must be handled nationally. Because eventually your inability to take a national stand will be revealed to be what it actually is: your inability to stand up for what is right.
You have a chance to be on the right side of history on this one.
Do the right thing, Mr. President. After all, you pride yourself on being very smart. Make a decision that you can be proud of. Protect our children. Protect all of them.
We are waiting.