Trump administration forces biological gender and ignores transgender identities

November 27, 2018 — by Marisa Kingsley

Currently, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), only 45 percent of the national LGBT population lives in a state with a high policy tally — defined as “the number of laws and policies within a state that help drive equality for LGBT people.”

This statistic means that only 17 states, plus Washington, D.C., have laws that guarantee the protection of all people of the LGBT community. Sadly, a recent proposal floated by the Trump administration seeks to decrease this number even more.

On Oct. 21, the transgender community was shaken when The New York Times acquired a memo that showed the Trump administration is considering legally defining sex as “based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”  

While Trump’s trial balloon might generate praise from his supporters, it would deny fundamental rights to transgender people. And this change signals a dangerous future that might have severe, far-reaching consequences for those communities if Trump’s ideas manifest into real policies.

According to CNN, the American medical community currently recognizes sex as something classified by biological traits, and gender as socially constructed traits exhibited by men and women. Thus, there has been a call for guidelines that protect people who don’t fit into those boxes, such as those who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming; several courts have enacted laws that protect these citizens by prohibiting sex stereotyping.

This shift in thinking, which recognizes transgender citizens as people deserving of legal protections, was influenced by the anti-discrimination laws set in place by federal agencies during the Obama administration. The education department defined Title IX, a federal civil rights law that forbids discrimination based on sex in schools that receive government funding, to include discrimination based on gender identity. The Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services have similar interpretations of these statutes.

Yet Title IX doesn’t include the definition of “sex” or “discrimination.” This is where the recent memo comes in.

According to the memo, the Trump administration seeks to change the legal definition of sex in Title IX to be “the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued … unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.” If adopted, this change could deny transgender people the federal and fundamental civil rights that guarantee protections in education, employment and access to health care.

But this isn’t the first time the Trump administration has tried to erase transgender identities.

Early in Trump’s presidency, his administration rescinded the Education Department’s recommendation that allowed students to use facilities and pronouns that match their gender identity. In October 2017, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked guidance that protected transgender workers from discrimination. Trump has also signed an order that would ban transgender military recruits, but this has so far been blocked by the federal court.

The administration should not seek to undo case laws that protect transgender citizens, and states have their own laws to protect such people. Transgender people are highly vulnerable to discrimination and in need of such protections.

Many people, including transgenders, other members of the LGBT community and other allies, have reacted angrily to this proposal. There have been many rallies across the country in support of transgender people, declaring that they “will not be erased.”

Science has proven that despite what many conservatives may believe, being transgender is not a choice a person makes — or one that can be reversed. Many studies have shown that transgender individuals more closely represent the brain of the gender they identify with, rather than the one they were born as. Due to rejection, harassment, discrimination or violence by their family, peers, employment agencies, or healthcare providers, people who are transgender have a much higher risk of committing suicide, as evidenced by the 41 percent of transgender individuals who have reported attempting suicide.

Letting transgender individuals express themselves for who they are is absolutely vital. We must treat these people as valid members of society. Someone’s gender expression or sexuality does not determine their worth — that’s saved for their character. Things like respecting pronouns and correlating bathroom use, covering for gender reassignment surgeries are small prices to pay for the increased quality of life for transgender individuals.

There are an estimated 1.4 million transgender people in the U.S. Laws should be made to seek to protect them. We shouldn’t tolerate bias against a targeted group simply because we don’t believe in the validity of their identities, and lawmakers shouldn’t let their personal biases get in the way. Representatives are elected and appointed for the purpose of serving all people, and when they specifically exclude transgender people, they are doing the exact opposite.

No matter what the Trump administration does, nothing can erase transgender individuals and those of us who recognize and support transgender people must advocate and vocalize their support; whether it be supporting them locally or nationwide, we must raise each other up, and save our judgment for their character and morals.