Dear Ms. DeVos,
Do you know what happens when transgender students are supported in schools? They have the opportunity to succeed. They are empowered to work to the best of their ability and to grow, learn and excel in a safe and affirming environment.
My daughter, Rebekah, is 10 years old. She is a hard worker with a deep love of learning. She enjoys school, dance, mountain biking, and playing with her friends. She wants to be a writer when she grows up. She also happens to be transgender. That means her birth certificate says male, but she deeply knows herself to be a girl.
When Rebekah entered the public school system two years ago, my husband and I were afraid. Transgender students face disproportionately high rates of harassment and discrimination, and those students subsequently struggle with academics, absenteeism, peer relationships, and depression. We met with the principal, guidance counselor, and her teachers before the school year began. We shared our family’s story, offered resources, and talked about expectations. They were receptive and understanding. We held our breath when they asked what bathroom she would use, but we were relieved when they didn’t blink an eye at our response. She’s a girl. She uses the girls’ bathroom.
Imagine my surprise when the day before school started, the district superintendent knocked at my door. We’d never met. He introduced himself and assured me that the school system would take good care of Rebekah. He assured me her birth name would be kept secure and confidential. He assured me she would be treated like any other girl. He assured me that if there were any problems, he would have our back. When he left, I closed the door and cried. I cried tears of relief, gratitude, and joy. My daughter would be safe and affirmed in her school. Every parent deserves to know that.
The school district has stood by their word. It's because of the support she has received that she can focus on academics, being a positive member of the school community, and growing into an adult who will contribute to making America great. Her teachers rave about her, and she has a great group of friends. She gets straight As and ‘Caring Kid’ awards. When Rebekah goes to school, she doesn’t have to think about being transgender. She doesn’t stress about bathrooms or bullying. In her words, she goes to school thinking about being herself, learning, and having fun. She’s just like any other girl.
This year she received the President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence. It’s only because she is fully supported that she is able to “make the most of [her] educational opportunities... diligently working to reach [her] goals.” Those are the words Mr. Trump used in the letter given to the recipients. He continues on to implore her to continue to pursue her educational goals. He writes, “Your community and your country are counting on you.”
Well, Ms. DeVos and Mr. Trump, transgender students are counting on their communities and, yes, their country to support them, to protect their rights and to ensure they have access to the education every single student in America deserves. They are counting on you. Finally, Mr. Trump closes his letter saying he and his wife “share the pride” of my child’s parents, teachers, and friends. No. He does not get to do that. My child’s parents, teachers, and friends have made her feel seen, affirmed, safe, and loved. The Trump administration has done anything but that.
My daughter knows she is lucky to live in a state and a district that protects her rights, and she knows it shouldn’t come down to luck. At ten years old, it’s hard for Rebekah to comprehend that the person in charge of education for the entire country doesn’t want every student to be safe and protected in school regardless of where they live. She is angry that many kids like her struggle to get through school each day. She is frustrated that everyone cares so much where people go to the bathroom. Furthermore, with every move this administration makes, Rebekah gets more scared that you’ll take away her rights instead of protecting them. My kid is doing her part for her community and her country. It’s time for you to do yours.
A Proud Mama Bear to a Transgender Student