Question for educators regarding transgender students

I have a question for my educator friends about the federal government’s letter on transgender students.

Background: On May 13, the Department of Justice and Department of Education issued a joint letter to schools receiving federal funding. Schools that receive federal funding are obligated to comply with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools. Any schools that violate Title IX can have their federal funding withdrawn.

The letter outlines the schools’ Title IX obligations regarding transgender students. The DOJ and ED treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex. Thus, a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.

One controversial part of the letter is the guidance provided on sex-segregated activities and facilities. For example, a school may provide separate locker rooms or restrooms on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity. So a transgender female student must be permitted to use the restrooms for females.

The letter has prompted strong criticism on multiple fronts. Some critics charge the government of executive overreach or social engineering. Others have expressed concern about privacy and safety for students, particularly females. The concern is that young men could enter a female restroom under the pretense of identifying as transgender and harass or assault women in the restroom. This is a valid concern that should be carefully considered.

My question is: How does an individual identify as transgender?

Page Two of the letter:

“The Departments interpret Title IX to require that when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, as appropriate, notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity. Under Title IX, there is no medical diagnosis or treatment
requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.”

This text indicates that a student who wishes to assert a different gender identity that differs from previous records must take an active step to do so. But how does that work in practice? The letter indicates that no medical diagnosis is necessary, but what other procedures are in place? How long does the process of changing gender identity take?

I’m curious because I wonder how procedural precautions can limit the risks of harassment or assault. To put another way, if changing one’s gender identity must be done ex ante (rather than presented as an ex post justification), how might that reduce risk?

People may have opinions about this letter, but I’m curious to hear from educators in the field.

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