"My best interpretation of what our laws and our obligations are is that we should try to accommodate these kids so that they are not in a vulnerable situation."
Bathroom access for transgender people has become a hot-button issue recently with some states pushing bills and laws that would deny people the right to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
President Obama spoke out about the topic last night during a town hall event broadcast by PBS.
When asked about bathroom access for transgender students, the President responded, "My best interpretation of what our laws and our obligations are is that we should try to accommodate these kids so that they are not in a vulnerable situation," adding, "We should deal with this issue the same way we would want it dealt with if it was our child and that is to try to create an environment of some dignity and kindness for these kids."
According to Reuters, last month the federal government told public schools that they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. And, while schools aren't required to do so, the request came with implied threats to cut federal funding.
At the root of anti-transgender laws are arguments that transgender people are sexual predators and allowing them to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity will lead to more crimes by predators. However, according to research done by UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, early indications show that this assumption is false.
Jody Herman, a public policy scholar at the institute, told NPR that based on her survey of 93 transgender and gender non-conforming people, they are actually more at risk of facing violence. "About 70 percent of the sample reported experiencing being denied access to restrooms, being harassed while using restrooms and even experiencing some forms of physical assault."
For President Obama the solution is plan and simple, transgender people deserve to be accommodated and have the right to feel safe when they enter the bathroom. "If the school districts around the country asked me, ‘What do you think we should do?’ What we’re gonna do is tell them, let’s find a way to accommodate them in a way that makes sure these kids are not excluded and ostracized."
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