by Max Brantley
Dear Governor Hutchinson,
I am writing you to express my disappointment in your response to the letter sent by the federal government as guidance to the school districts of this nation regarding the fair and equal treatment under the law of transgender students. You stated that you found the letter “offensive, intrusive and totally lacking in common sense.” The guidelines the federal government made explicit to the school districts in the state of Arkansas and throughout the country may be different than what you are speaking out against and opposing.
When the state of Arkansas took federal money tied to Title IX the state signed a contract with the federal government that explicitly agreed to not discriminate on the basis of gender identity.
The Republican majority in the United States congress in 2013 actually defined “gender identity” and set the standards for nondiscrimination that is now part of the contractual agreement the state entered into when receiving funds for programs tied to Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act. (1)
I am concerned that you do not fully understand the peril you are putting transgender students in when you come out in opposition to this letter. Ensuring a safe and healthy environment in Arkansas schools requires that you are aware that data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey show a direct correlation between the high suicide rates of teenagers and bathroom restriction of transgender teens. (2)
Please look at whose lives you are putting in jeopardy when you refuse to acknowledge the students in Arkansas schools whose safety is in danger daily.
Perhaps you do not have experience or previous relationship with a member of the transgender community. Let me for a moment be their voice. I am the president of Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition (ArTEC). There has been a lot of misinformation about our community. I would appreciate an opportunity for a direct, non-confrontational conversation. I invite you into this conversation as soon as possible so that together we can build a stronger, safer Arkansas for all Arkansans.
The Reverend Gwen Fry
President of ArTEC
1) “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity (as defined in paragraph 249(c)(4) of title 18, United States Code), sexual orientation, or disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds made available under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (title IV of Public Law 103–322 ; 108 Stat. 1902), the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 (division B of Public Law 106–386; 114 Stat. 1491), the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (title IX of Public Law 109–162 ; 119 Stat. 3080), the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 , and any other program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds appropriated for grants, cooperative agreements, and other assistance administered by the Office on Violence Against Women.”
2) National Center for Transgender Equality