LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Essentially, one of the things the order does is prohibit schools from denying LGBT people use of lockers, bathrooms, and the ability to be on sports teams.
“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” the executive order states. “Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes.”
"One important thing to realize is that even if you have never been discriminated against, the threat is always there," said Preston Heldibridle.
22-year-old Heldibridle knows it's not always easy being a transgender man.
"For example, at my job, a customer once somehow found out I was transgender, filed a complaint with my company, saying I did horrible things at work," explained Heldibridle. "If I didn't have a boss that didn't understand or know me so well, I could have been fired."
Heldibridle, a HACC student and state policy associate for the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, explained the difficult decisions faced while discovering his gender identity as a teenager.
"Once I got to high school, a major reason I stopped playing sports is because I was afraid to join any team, male or female. There is almost an equal risk in joining either team," explained Heldibridle.
As an advocate for responsible LGBTQ policy, Heldibridle feels the risk could be reduced. He sees President Biden's executive order which prohibits discrimination against people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation as a step in the right direction. Not everyone agrees.
"What does the executive order does immediately is use the power and force of the federal government to prohibit schools from making biological distinctions," explained Mike Howell, executive director for the Heritage Foundation, which promotes conservative policies.
Howell, a lawyer, believes it could have an adverse impact on students, sports teams, and access to scholarships.
"What this means in practice is biological men are going to be allowed to compete in female sports and have access to female locker rooms. The consequence of this will be it will change women and men's sports forever," said Howell.
Howell doesn't believe President Biden should have such broad power.
"These huge decisions are better left to local communities and individuals. The federal government shouldn't have a role in Alabama in saying how sports should be run. We think that in all policy areas really," said Howell.
According to its website, Heritage Foundation experts have long opposed the expansion of anti-discrimination laws to elevate “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes.
“It doesn't take a crystal ball to know how Biden administration officials will interpret and apply these policies: men who identify as women must be allowed in women-only spaces, boys who identify as girls must be allowed to compete in the girls’ athletic competitions, healthcare plans must pay for gender-transition procedures, doctors and hospitals must perform them, adoption agencies may not seek only married moms and dads to care for children in need.”
"On the subject of school and school sports, often trans youth, without legal protections, we don't have any guaranteed safe place," said Heldibridle.
Heldibridle hopes more is done to create those safe places for LGBTQ youth.
"We need a stable, permanent law protecting us. We urge the state legislature to pass statewide nondiscrimination protections as well," he said.
The executive order also states, "Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes. People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination. All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation."