By Assistant Editor-in-Chief Johnny Perreira.
On Sunday, October 21st, the New York Times broke an article which detailed an ongoing move by the Trump Administration to redefine gender under federal civil rights law.
The NYT obtained a memo which outlines the philosophy behind the move. One piece of the memo reads, “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth. … The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
The memo was shared particularly with the Department of Health and Human Services, which also called upon the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Labor to consider the ideals of the memo into their legislative decisions.
According to the memo, the Department of Health and Human Services was the primary recipient: the Trump Administration aims to cut off the Obama-Era guidance on including transgender people made in the Title IX civil rights law, which banned sex discrimination in educational programs which receive federal funding.
Spokespeople for the department, among other conservative officials, refuse to comment on leaked documents.
By looking at the administration’s past, with actions such as the ban of trans people in the military, it can be inferred that the GOP doesn’t intend to recognize “transgender” as a legitimate identity.
Head of the Office of Civil Rights at Human and Health Services, Roger Servino, commented on the current definitions in an opinion piece on the Daily Signal, writing the civil rights policies were a “culmination of a series of unilateral, and frequently lawless, administration attempts to impose a new definition of what it means to be a man or a woman on the entire nation.”
Since the article broke, the LGBTQ+ community and the larger left population has erupted in protest. The hashtag #WontBeErased proliferated twitter and other social media from trans users, the posts attached with photos of themselves as a documentary-style resistance to the memo.
Gabii Barthe is a UMass Dartmouth grad student in the masters program for Professional Writing & Communications. They are also transgender and nonbinary. When asked about the memo, they said, “This memo really boils down to the fact Trans individuals aren’t being treated as whole people.”
They continued, saying “it’s really worrisome to see someone try to narrow the definition of gender this way because it not only completely disregards people’s identities, it goes against statements from professionals who have proven transness to be a thing.”
Compounded with the news of this memo is Question Three on the Massachusetts ballot this year, which could repeal a 2016 act made to protect trans people from discrimination in places of public accommodation (bathrooms, for example.)
Outrage in New England poured from trans and ally communities, who are confounded as to how this question came to even exist.
A popular argument against the nondiscrimination law (made typically by conservatives or evangelical Christians) argues that individuals can disguise their gender to trespass in bathrooms they “do not belong in” and commit assault.
This argument has been proven to be completely ungrounded, according to a study by the UCLA, which finds that the nondiscrimination law has no effect on crime rates in bathrooms. After all, assault and trespassing remain illegal and unethical.
An argument made against the guidance on Title IX which protected trans people is that the civil rights law concerns sex discrimination and that gender identity has no place within.
In other words, the Trump Administration aims to fully disregard the safety and happiness of an entire community of millions, all due to their personal interpretations and expressions of gender identity. Considering the losses dealt to the trans population since Trump’s election, I believe it’s very clear that this issue has nothing to do with semantics: this is deep, systemic transphobia.
Trans people exist. They are a community of human beings, growing not because it’s trendy, but because of the work put in and deaths suffered by the LGBTQ+ community, which continue to dispel harmful stigma and educate the world on the spectrum that is gender.
Trans people exist. This is not a bipartisan issue, this fact is not up for debate, and their rights should not be a ballot question. Trans rights are human rights, and the damage done by this administration and the transphobia of the population will one day be reversed as history places them on the wrong side.
Trans people exist. You have talked to a trans person, you have shaken the hand of a trans person, you have gone to the bathroom next to a trans person, you have had conversations with a trans person, and you have coexisted alongside a trans person. If any of these facts make you uncomfortable – good. Confront and challenge that feeling.
When I first faced the notion that gender was a spectrum and that being trans was an identity, the idea didn’t fit into my narrow definition of how the world worked. I turned to science, or spirituality, or friends who’d confirm my bias, just to find comfort. Isn’t that funny; that I, the cis man, was uncomfortable? I was blissfully unaware of the rich but despairing history of trans people, and the suffering they must endure against an ignorant population.
The trans people I’ve had the fortune of getting to know have changed my life. With the pain that comes from dysphoria, bigotry, and many other things, also comes a remarkable empathy and intelligence that has broadened my perspective and has enabled me to welcome more love in my heart.
Support the trans community. This can begin with starting conversations among friends on what gender means, or doing individual research on empirical studies done on gender or laws in place which define the trans identity very eloquently.
The Trump Administration has remained ruthless and disgusting in a battle against the trans community, and it is the responsibility of privileged people to step up as active, non-apathetic allies and speak out against hatred in all its forms and sizes.
Trans people exist.