The Trump administration is yet again endorsing discrimination against LGBTQI people. In his time in office, Trump has tried to ban transgender people from military service and implied the government would protect physicians who refuse to treat LGBTQ patients on “moral” grounds. And now, the administration is reportedly attempting to redefine gender as based solely on one’s genitalia at birth.
On October 21st, The New York Times reported that the Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to change anti-discrimination law Title IX to define gender as determined “on a biological basis.” The proposal would also roll back changes made by the Obama administration to widen the legal definition of gender.
According to NYT, the proposed definition would prevent transgender people from legally identifying as anything besides the gender they were assigned at birth. Additionally, the change would strictly limit sex to male or female. According to UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy, about 1.4 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender, meaning that all of those people would be affected by the proposed change.
The proposal was reportedly written in a memo, obtained by NYT, which has been circulating since last spring.
On top of denying the existence of trans and nonbinary people, the proposal also ignores the fact that not everyone is born with “immutable biological traits” of only one gender. As the American Psychological Association notes, babies can be born with ambiguous genitalia, hormone insensitivities, or sex chromosomes other than XX or XY. These intersex children are sometimes not clearly male or female, and reducing the legal definition of sex to a binary ignores their existence.
On Twitter, trans users are protesting the report with the hashtag #WontBeErased.
However, perhaps as expected, the Trump administration is now claiming that the Times story is “misleading,” and even went so far as to place blame on the Obama administration. In a statement, Health and Human Services spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said that the previous administration failed to appeal two separate Texas injunctions that attempted to limit the definition of gender, implying that this is what led to the current potential change in medical guidelines.
She decidedly leaves out the fact that the Obama administration is the one that expanded the definition of gender in the first place (the injunctions were in response to that), and they did appeal the first. The second occurred when there was only three weeks left in the Obama presidency, and there was not enough time to adequately address it. Further, no one is forcing the current administration to make these policy changes…they could just as easily choose not to pursue them.
Trying to deny the existence of trans, nonbinary, and intersex people is harmful and regressive, meaning we need to make sure we fight this proposal by any means necessary. Trans rights are human rights, and our government needs to acknowledge that.