Trump Admin Targets Trans Rights. Again.

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Federal Government Seeks to Limit Definition of Gender

by Emily Dreher, Unspoken Voices Contributor


**While the topic and writing of this blog piece allies with the goal and motivations of Unspoken Voices, the writing is that of the author and not necessarily reflective of the views of Unspoken Voices itself.**

The New York Times reported Oct. 21 on a draft of a Department of Health and Human Services memo (that the NYT had exclusively accessed) that seeks to create a legal definition of gender under Title IX, which could have wide-ranging impacts on discrimination in education, health care and labor. This draft has been floating around since last spring, the NYT said, and will likely be presented to the Justice Department by the end of the year.

Its proposed definition is rooted in incorrect and binarist notions that gender is immutable and inextricably linked to physiological sex. DHHS wants to define gender as sex designated at birth based on genitalia, which is in itself a vastly imperfect practice that often leads to untold numbers of genital mutilations to infants. And if there is further confusion — the NYT’s language was “[a]ny dispute about one’s sex” — genetic testing would be administered (on whose authority or dime?) to “clarify” someone’s gender. Never mind that there are dozens of conditions that can be marked by “atypical” chromosome combinations and expressions. Oh, and even our objective bastion of truth, science, says sex itself (aka the physical body and NOT gender) isn’t binary or simple to determine.

The memo claims that a (narrower) standardized definition is needed to reduce confusion in agencies and laws but also heavily implied that expansions of rights to the realms of sexual orientation and gender identity were wrongly put in place by the Obama administration.

Because why should people get more rights under a federal civil rights law specifically designed to give people rights?

The NYT reports that 1.4 million people (it did not specify if these were people who self-identified as trans) would no longer have their identity recognized by the federal government (the NYT article used unclear and transphobic/cissexist language to say they were people who  “opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.”)

This is only the latest in the administration’s chipping away at trans rights, following the military ban and previous reports that reversed protections for trans workers, inmates, and patients.

Just like with the Department of Education’s Title IX proposals, there would only be a public comment period before going into full effect. No Congressional approval would be needed.

In the meantime, we cis folks need to support our trans family by lifting some of the burden from their fight. Out.com has an excellent action list to get started. You can also donate to crisis support centers, which are no doubt experiencing higher-than-average call volumes, like Trans Lifeline and LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization the Trevor Project.