On Tuesday, over 1,000 students in Virginia walked out of middle and high schools to protest Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s decision to reverse certain policies that protected transgender youth in state schools. According to NBC Washington, more than 90 schools were set to participate, including 59 in Northern Virginia.
Youngkin’s proposed guidelines, which were released on Sept. 16, would restrict transgender students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Students would also have to get consent from their parents before changing their names or pronouns at school. The proposed bill also limits sports teams to the gender assigned at birth.
Students all over the state were outraged after Youngkin’s policy announcement and organized the walkout to bring attention to transgender rights and the governor’s unpopular decisions.
“We decided to hold these walkouts as kind of a way to … disrupt schools and essentially have students be aware of what’s going on,” Natasha Sanghvi, a northern Virginia high school senior told AP.
Sanghvi also praised former Gov. Ralph Northam’s policies saying they helped students feel affirmed at school but said that Youngkin’s policies could harm “every single queer student in the state of Virginia.”
The walkout also draws attention to the devastating levels of discrimination against Black transgender.
According to a new study released by thetaskforce.org, Black transgender and gender non-conforming people face some of the highest levels of discrimination of all transgender people.
Black transgender people had an unemployment rate two times higher than the overall transgender sample of the study, and four times higher than the national average.
41% of Black respondents said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, and 34% reported a household income of less than $10,000 per year.
The study also revealed that more than one-fifth of Black respondents were living with HIV (20.23 percent), compared to a rate of 2.64 percent for transgender respondents of all races.
Nearly half of the Black respondents in the study said they had attempted suicide.
“From education to employment and housing discrimination, from police brutality to health care disparities, Black transgender people are suffering at extremely high rates due to bigotry and transphobia,” said National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director, Sharon Lettman-Hicks.
“Nearly half of all Black transgender respondents report being harassed at work and at school. Twenty-six percent are unemployed and 34 percent report annual incomes of less than $10,000 per year. These numbers are appalling and these living conditions are unacceptable for any human being — gender conforming or not.”
After a public comment period, which will run through Oct. 26, Virginia’s Department of Education will review the responses, then the state superintendent will approve or deny the policies.