Trump admin withdraws transgender bathroom policy

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Unisex bathroom on the 3rd floor of Cook Hall. Photo by John Rothwell

Today President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew the transgender student bathroom policy enacted by the Barack Obama administration.

Obama’s policy required that public schools allow students to use the restroom according to their gender identity, and not the sex they were born with.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that the transgender policy “is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government.”

Grand Rapids Community College Title IX Coordinator Kimberly DeVries said policy will not change for transgender students at the college.

“GRCC has made a commitment, based on our values, to ensure that all our students, including our transgender students, are protected,” DeVries said. “Before the guidance came out from the Obama administration, GRCC had already enacted our Transgender Equal Opportunity Policy. Even now that the administration has withdrawn the previous statements of policy and guidance as described in the May 2016 ‘Dear Colleague Letter,’ GRCC will retain our policy, and will continue to work to make all students feel safe and welcome.”

Trump admin seeks “change” in policy

Wednesday afternoon at a White House press conference, Spicer said the administration was seeking a “change” in the policy.

GRCC student Beau Vansolkema said he’s “not surprised” by the suggested policy change, coming from the Donald Trump administration.

Vansolkema is transgender, and is the president of GRCC’s StandOut, student-run LGBT+ organization.

“The Trump administration in general is doing some very scary things,” Vansolkema said, who has spent the last three years at GRCC working for student LGBT rights, including adding unisex bathrooms on campus.

The college also added privacy panels in the showers of the locker rooms in the Ford Fieldhouse, to comply with Title IX transgender policy.

The privacy panels are in the lower level of the Fieldhouse. Kayla Tucker - Editor-in-Chief | The Collegiate Live
The privacy panels are in the lower level of the Fieldhouse.

Vansolkema, 33, of Wyoming, said GRCC has given him generous support and he is not worried about changes happening at the college, saying that GRCC “does not plan on changing their policy.”

“Certainly if we needed to take a stand on it we would but they have given me their word that they aren’t going to change the Title IX policy,” Vansolkema said. “Ever since I’ve been a student, one of the things I’ve always known whether or not I was a Standout member was how much they stand behind diversity.”

Spicer said Wednesday in a press conference that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is on board with this policy change “100 percent.”

Vansolkema suggested that students should “keep a rational mind” when hearing news like this.

“I’m always encouraging people to take a stand on the things they believe in,” Vansolkema said.

But with all of the protests and fake news being circulated on the Internet, Vansolkema said “everything gets lost in translation” and it’s easy to get confused and frustrated.  

“If they think more with a rational head, they won’t get burned out so quickly,” he said.

Vansolkema said he is sad to be finishing up the last of his GRCC courses this semester.

“It’s given me a really safe place to be who I am,” Vansolkema said.

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