Obama took the liberal policy (trans choose which bathroom to go to, whether or not private businesses approve or not) regarding trans and bathrooms of private businesses.

However, Trump recently changed things. So, I assume that either he took the conservative policy (trans must go to the bathroom they are initially assigned to, whether or not private businesses approve), or the libertarian policy (private businesses decide their trans/bathroom policy).

Which policy did Trump go with: conservative or libertarian?

If I recall, Trump didn't mind Jenner taking a dump in Trump Tower, so I assumed he's pretty libertarian when it comes to the trans/bathroom issue. Also, he overall doesn't really make a big deal of LGBT. So, I assume he took the latter policy, however with Donald you never know. :)

Note: I am not asking what is right or wrong, just what type of policy he used.

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    The answer is obvious between these two choices (even from the formulation your question).
    – Drux
    Feb 24, 2017 at 7:31
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    @Drux -- If it were, I wouldn't be asking. :) As I said, I'm pretty sure he would take the libertarian policy, but he could've taken the conservative policy, too. Would to like to tell me the answer?
    – Fine Man
    Feb 24, 2017 at 7:31
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    If would improve the question to remove the part about private business, and not call conservative and Libertarian "policies". Feb 24, 2017 at 10:39
  • IIRC the news reports stated that he instructed to Education Department to withdraw the order mandating transgender use of the "bathroom of their choice" so that it will be up to the individual states. You should quote the actual order in your question. Feb 24, 2017 at 13:34

3 Answers 3


Recent Policy

The recent news - from February 2017 - is about applying Title IX to trans people. Obama issued a guidance that trans people are to be protected under it, and Trump reversed that. It doesn't have anything to do with private businesses.

Regarding "states rights" that is indeed an argument the white house used in this case:

The joint decision made today by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education returning power to the states paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators.

This argument has been critizised, as Trump is not a proponent of state rights in other areas.

Trumps position

Trumps position on the issue is unclear, although it seems to have moved against trans rights, using the argument of "states rights".

In April 2016 he opposed HB2 in North Carolina:

There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go; they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.

After some backlash Trump changed his mind, citing "state rights":

"I think this should be a states' issue. It's become a huge story and yet it affects — and everybody has to be protected, if it's one person — but it's a tiny, tiny portion of the population, and it's become a massive story," Trump said. "I think there should be a states' issue.


There are two misconceptions in this question. First, that every stance a politician can take fits into a conservative/libertarian dichotomy. A political action can also be both or neither.

Second, that conservative and libertarian are opposed. They are not. They are orthogonal concepts.

Conservative means "The inclination, especially in politics, to maintain the existing or traditional order". Or in other words "doing things the way we always did them". This is opposed to Progressivism, which means "A political ideology that favours progress towards better conditions in society" or "let's try something new".

A pure gender segregation in bathrooms based on biological sex assigned from birth was the way Americans were always doing it. Acknowledging and accommodating transsexuality is a rather new concept for the US-american society. This makes it a progressive concept. So the stance that society should not support transsexuality is a conservative position.

Libertarianism is a political concept which (overly simplified) says that personal freedoms and rights should be maximized, including rights to one's own property. The opposite is Authoritarianism, which says that the government should have the authority to decide how people live.

Now what would be the authoritarian and what the libertarian position in the trans bathroom issue?

Libertarianism guarantees property rights. If someone wants to use your property, like your bathroom, then you have the right to state the conditions for that or forbid it altogether. You are not required to justify your decision in any way, because it's your property and you alone decide what happens with it. So the libertarian position would be that every owner of two or more public bathrooms can decide who is allowed to use which one.

Authoritarianism gives authority to the state. So no matter if the state says "everyone has to allow everyone to use whatever bathroom they want" or "we say who can use which bathroom", both are authoritarian positions.

Now what's Trump's position? In a talk show a year ago he criticized a new law in North Carolina which strengthened the traditional gender segregation in bathrooms. This was a conservative law, so his position here could be called progressive.

But is his stance authoritarian or libertarian? That depends on how he intends to solve the issue. Leaving the decision to individual bathroom owners would be libertarian. Advocating a government-imposed bathroom etiquette would be authoritarian. But as the source from the answer by tim mentions, he doesn't seem to have a strong position on this issue anymore. Otherwise he wouldn't delegate it to the state level and let them decide for themselves if they pick the authoritarian-conservative, the authoritarian-progressive or the libertarian solution.

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    "A pure gender segregation in bathrooms based on biological sex assigned from birth was the way Americans were always doing it." No, people who have fully made the transition have been using the bathroom of choice for years. A trans man, with a full beard and well-developed muscular physique would attract much more attention using the ladies room than the men's room.
    – jalynn2
    Feb 24, 2017 at 13:12
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    @jalynn2 I am looking at this from a larger timespan. A full gender transition wasn't even medically possible since a few decades ago. So now society has to decide how to deal with this new situation. The progressive say "it's great that people can now have gender reassignment, we should support that", the conservatives say "gender reassignment is an illusion and against natural order, you stay what you are at birth".
    – Philipp
    Feb 24, 2017 at 13:16
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    Wouldn't leaving the decision to individual bathroom users also be libertarian? Albeit in a leftist-anarchist, rather than rightist-proprietary sense.
    – origimbo
    Feb 24, 2017 at 14:22
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    @origimbo not if they are using the bathrooms owned by other people. As I wrote, Libertarianism puts a high value on personal property rights. That's one of the differences between Libertarianism and Anarchy.
    – Philipp
    Feb 24, 2017 at 14:39
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    Arguably, decentralizing authority from federal to state is both a libertarian and conservative position, as well (libertarian in that decentralization of authority is better than centralization, even if worse than any authority; conservative in that states' rights concepts and limiting the role of Federal government are the origin story of the Republic)
    – user4012
    Feb 25, 2017 at 4:45

Which policy did Trump go with: conservative or libertarian?

Why cannot it be both or none?

Returning more power to the states follows the Constitution (conservatism) and empowers the states (libertarian).

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