The White House Takes A Major Step To Ensure Transgender Students’ Rights

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But there’s still a long way to go

Today, the White House issued a directive to protect trans students in public schools across the country. According to The Atlantic, the Obama administration sent a letter signed by Justice and Education department officials to school districts with detailed instructions on how to prevent students from being discriminated against and, among other things, order them to allow transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity. Refusal to do so, the letter reportedly claims, is a civil rights violation. 

The letter also elucidates Title IX, which forbids sex-based discrimination from government-funded institutions, and reminds schools that gender identity discrimination is forbidden in housing, athletics, locker rooms, and at school events like graduation. It is the most informative document that schools have been given about transgender people. It includes instructions about pronoun usage and how to support students who are transitioning and prevent bullying. The initiative does not hold the same weight as a law, but it does threaten to bring lawsuits and less of federal aid to districts that do not abide by its specifications. 

This comes after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against North Carolina for its HB2 bill, which is a clear violation of transgender rights and equality. One of the most talked about aspects of the bill is how it requires transgender people to use bathrooms that don't correspond to their gender identity. 

While this is a huge, necessary step for the rights of transgender individuals, it's simply not enough to protect them from discrimination and life-threatening situations.

"Obama is sending a very clear message about trans lives and our humanity, however I think this is happening in such a hyper-visible way that I worry about the response by many citizens in the United States," Basil Soper, a trans activist and writer who has worked to protect other trans students at North Carolina's Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College after being threatened against by a male peer in a restroom, tells us. "While I am incredibly grateful and excited for Obama's directive and overall message, and I believe it's a good first step, it's not going to be beneficial if a student is outed in class and then put into the same restroom with people who are transphobic."

In order to foster a safe, nurturing environment, Soper suggests, more education and procedures need to be put in place. "There needs to be direction around using a student's proper pronouns, name, and gender on all course materials and in class with teachers. This way, they are streamlined into a school's microcosm. If nobody 'others' that student in any way and everyone uses the right language and name, then it will help keep the student from being vulnerable to others' judgment, hate, and well-intentioned but still very invasive questions. If a trans student is to succeed in school, then they need to be protected in such a way that nothing interferes with their learning."

Hopefully, the Obama administration will put more mechanisms in place soon. With rates of transgender homicide at an all-time high, it's imperative. 

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Which one, though?

Kim Kardashian is suing fast fashion retailer Missguided, claiming that the brand uses her image to spark interest in and sell its clothing. This lawsuit comes a few days after a theory, that she may be selling her own vintage clothing designs to fast fashion brands so that they can rip them off, made its rounds on the internet.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kardashian's attorney Michael Kump writes that "Missguided systematically uses the names and images of Kardashian and other celebrities to advertise and spark interest in its website and clothing." Other celebrities that the brand has tagged on its Instagram include Cardi B and Dua Lipa, along with the other members of the Kardashian-Jenner family.

Kump uses the example of the Yeezy dress that Kim posted to Instagram, which was ripped off by the brand within a couple of hours. "Recently, for example, after Kardashian posted a photo on Instagram of a dress that was made for her... Missguided quickly responded with its own Instagram post... boasting that it would be ripping off the design within 'a few days,'" Kump continues. "Missguided purposefully inserted Kardashian's Instagram username (@KimKardashian) into its post to capitalize on her celebrity status and social media following in promoting the sale of its upcoming product."

Kump also draws attention to the fact that the brand uses Kardashian's name so much that it may lead others to believe that she works with the brand, which, he wants to make clear, she does not: "Missguided's U.S. website has included entire pages that are devoted solely to the sale of clothing inspired by Kardashian, and on which Kardashian's name and likeness are prominently used without her permission to promote the products."

Some are noting that it's suspicious that Kardashian is not suing Fashion Nova, as well, since the brand most recently ripped off a vintage Mugler gown that Kardashian wore. Though it may be harder for Kardashian to make any claims since timestamps have revealed that the dress was made before Kardashian premiered the dress.



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He previously claimed to be a victim of a hate crime

According to reports, actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested by the Chicago Police Department. As CNN outlines, he's facing a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report. If found guilty, he could face up to three years in prison.

The Empire star previously claimed that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime on January 29. He alleged that two masked men attacked him, tied a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and yelled, "This is MAGA country!" Brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo were eventually arrested and brought in for questioning, during which news broke that one appeared on Empire and the other worked as Smollett's personal trainer. Now, according to both men and reports, it's being said that Smollett paid them to "orchestrate" the attack.

Smollett's attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, have issued a statement regarding their client's defense. "Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked," they told Deadline. "Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."

If this is all true, this unfortunate turn of events should in no way take away from the fact that there is an abundant number of racially and sexually motivated attacks happening all of the time. They also still remain vastly underreported, so it's essential to listen to alleged victims, always.