Concern Over Transgender Students’ Health Increases Following Reversal of Title IX Protections

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**ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY AUG. 26**A sign marks the entrance to a gender neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Civil rights groups, health experts, and state officials are warning that the Trump administration’s decision last Wednesday to reverse Title IX protections for transgender students — which allowed them to use public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity — could have serious consequences for the mental and physical well-being of these young people.

Two mental health support hotlines reported an increase in the number of calls received in the hours and days following the announcement. Trans Lifeline, which provides support for transgender individuals, reported 239 calls on Wednesday and 379 on Thursday, compared to its daily average of 167 calls. The LGBTQ-focused Trevor Project also reported an increase in calls last week, but did not have exact numbers.

“The administration’s actions are hurting the transgender community. … In many ways, the story our call volume tells is [that] our community [has been] in more or less constant crisis since November,” Director of Operations for Trans Lifeline Nina Chaubal told The Huffington Post.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) officially denounced the White House’s decision, saying that it will have “detrimental effects on [transgender youth’s] physical and mental health, safety, and well-being.” The AAP also noted that the psychological well-being of transgender individuals requires affirmation, not stigmatization, of their identities.

Transgender youth are already at an increased risk of depression and suicide: 40 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once, with one-third of those attempts occurring before the age of 13, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Transgender individuals aged 18-25 are also 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, according to the survey.

Opponents of the ruling may now have additional evidence to support their argument. A study released last week by Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University shows a 7 percent decrease in suicide attempts by lesbian and gay teens following the legalization of gay marriage. Although the study’s authors emphasized that the results cannot prove a direct correlation between the two factors, they did explain that it’s important for lawmakers to consider how public policy concerning sexual minority rights affects the mental health of LGBTQ adolescents.

Similarly, a study just released by the University of California, Berkeley reveals that transgender and gender-fluid teens experience disturbingly high rates of bullying and physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. Approximately 50 to 70 percent of the 1,200 teens in the study reported experiencing at least 10 different forms of aggression at home, school, and online. “The health outlook for young people who don’t conform to socially prescribed gender roles will remain bleak if we look the other way,” the leader author of the study, Paul Sterzing, PhD, said in a press release. “We as a society have to propose inclusive solutions to protect these vulnerable adolescents.”

Some states and school districts that have already taken steps to guarantee transgender students the right to use restrooms that align with their gender identity have vowed not change their policies regardless of the ruling. The attorneys general of Washington and New York — two states that led the fight to ensure trans students’ rights under Title IX — have been outspoken in calling the Trump administration’s decision a violation of civil rights. Furthermore, public school districts in cities such as Albuquerque and Philadelphia have emphasized that removing such protections would be detrimental to the health and safety of transgender students.