On Saturday, President Trump gave away the game on what energizes the conservative base most right now: targeting transgender children in schools.
In a pledge to his supporters, he stated: "On day one, I will immediately sign a new executive order to cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, and political content for our children."
The audience responded with a standing ovation.
The conservative push to silence education about transgender identities is heavily reflected in a 2022 Pew Research survey. When asked about their views on children learning about trans people in schools, 72 percent of Republican leaning voters believe that their elementary-aged children learning about trans people is bad, and 52 percent believed the same for middle or high school students. Democrat-leaning respondents voted 28 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
"It's amazing how strongly people feel about that, you see, I'm talking about cutting taxes, people go like that..." Trump continued, clapping unenthusiastically. "I talk about transgender, everyone goes crazy. Who would've thought? Five years ago, you didn't know what the hell that was."
The audience seemed apprehensive towards his remarks, most remaining quiet.
In 2016, Trump infamously held up a rainbow flag with the words "LGBT for Trump" written on it. As conservatives politicians today increasingly target LGBTQ+ communities with legislation, many believe the former president could not vie for the support of queer people today.
As Trump claimed, the public's view of trans people has evolved over the past several years. Research shows that the number of people who believe that gender is determined by sex at birth has drastically grown.
In 2017, 54 percent of adults said that they believe whether a person is a man or a woman is determined by sex at birth. In 2021, this number increased to 56 percent. In 2022, responses showed that 60 percent of adults shared this belief, according to the Pew survey.
When asked why they think the public's views on transgender people are changing too quickly, respondents remained focused on schools. They expressed concerns such as: “It’s being pushed on society and especially on younger children, confusing them all the more. This is not something that should be taught in schools.”
However, many U.S. education systems are already prepared to address any "confusion" about LGBTQ+ identities. New York State, for example, offers a guidance document that includes clear, concise definitions of terminology.
The Human Rights Campaign has written a guide for educators and parents that addresses everything from basic terminology to specific issues for transgender youth. Organizations like Safe Schools Coalition have developed guidelines on what is appropriate to teach children at each age.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) provides resources for LGBTQ+ students, including fact sheets on how to support transgender students, and how to address harassment in schools.
The OCR clearly states why clarity about transgender identities is essential: ignorance and discrimination hinders transgender students' access to education, and Federal law requires schools to ensure that all students have equal access to education.
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