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Information for Trans* Students

Both state and federal law offer protection to trans* students
from discrimination and harassment in their schools

Minnesota Human Rights Act

The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) prohibits discrimination in education (See: Minn. Stat. § 363A.13). According to a 1993 amendment, schools are prohibited from differential treatment towards students on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, which was defined by the Minnesota Legislature as including those who "have or are perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with their biological maleness or femaleness" (See: Minn. Stat. § 363A. 03, subd. 44). Through the use of this terminology, MHRA prohibits discrimination against trans* students in all aspects of education. This would include differential treatment of students who do not fit the gender role usually assigned to persons with similar anatomy.

Title IX

Federal law also protects Minnesota trans students. Title IX prohibits discrimination in federally-funded public schools on the basis of "sex" (See: 20 USC § 1681). The term "sex" in federal law has increasingly been interpreted to encompass "gender roles" – in other words, enforcing gender roles constitutes sex discrimination. School districts which discriminate on the basis of a student's failure or refusal to adhere to gender role stereotypes, or which look the other way when such a student is harassed by others, face the potential of liability under federal law. The US Department of Education takes the position that Title IX in fact bars all discrimination against trans* students in federally-funded schools,which is explained in this policy letter and emerging practices guidebook. Our colleagues at the National LGBTQ Task Force have provided additional useful information here.

Trans* Students and College Financial Aid

For trans* students applying to colleges, very confusing questions can arise surrounding financial aid. Under federal law, males must register within 30 days of turning 18, and registration is considered a prerequisite for seeking financial aid. How does this requirement apply to a trans* student?

For this purpose, a person is deemed "male" if their birth certificate listed them as male at birth, regardless of subsequent changes. So, if the trans* student identifies as (and is now legally considered) a female, she might fill out her college application and financial aid forms listing herself as female, but would still be required to register for Selective Service, because she was assigned male at birth.

In contrast, if the trans* student identifies (and is now legally considered) male, he would fill out his college application and financial aid forms as male.  Having been assigned female at birth, he is not legally required to register, but because he is listing himself as male, everyone will still expect that he has registered and his aid application will likely be held up if he cannot show that he has. Trans* male students in this situation are encouraged to contact Selective Service to secure a letter confirming they are exempt from registration.

In October 2015, Rep. Keith Ellison wrote to the Selective Service System requesting changes to these policies.

For more information, contact the OutFront Minnesota Legal Program at legal@outfront.org or at (612) 822-0127, ext. 7663

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