Trump’s administration is trying to define ‘transgender’ out of existence

By Yair Oded

Published Oct 26, 2018 at 11:34 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

The U.S. government is in the process of dealing yet another blow to the LGBTQ community, this time by attempting to, quite literally, define trans people out of existence. Led by the Department of Health and Human Services, the government seeks to formulate a legal definition of ‘sex’ under Title IX, a federal law that bans gender discrimination in education programmes funded by the government. According to an unreleased memo obtained by The Times, the new definition would declare sex as an unchangeable biological condition based on the genitalia assigned at birth. The memo adds that any dispute over one’s sex would have to be resolved by genetic testing.

Should the definition be approved by the Justice Department, it would roll back on Obama-era regulations that loosened the definition of gender in federal programmes and suggested the gender was subject to an individual’s choice and interpretation rather than the sex they were born into. The new definition would thus deprive roughly 1.4 million trans Americans from federal recognition and limit their access government-funded services, such as education and health-care.

While the majority of headlines cite the president’s name in association with this horrendous policy proposal, it is crucial to remember that he is only a front man. Yes, he is an enabler of a sinister cause, but focusing the attention mostly on the president distracts us from the fact that there is an entire web of conservatives orchestrating this calculated attack on America’s LGBTQ community, and specifically on the trans population. Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services (and the mastermind behind the notorious memo), regards the concept of trans as “radical gender ideology” and refers to the Obama-era regulations as 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.” Let us also not forget Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who back in 2017 determined that the 1964 civil rights law does not protect trans people from employment discrimination, stating that “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including trans status.”

We must name and hold accountable the officials at the Department of Education, who merely a month into the administration’s term in 2017 rolled back on Obama-era regulations that allowed trans in public schools to use whatever facilities that correspond with their gender identity and currently refuse to investigate civil complaints by trans students who are barred from entering the bathroom they wish to use. We ought to remain outraged by the actions of military generals who successfully pushed to ban trans people from serving in the military and the U.S. officials at the United Nations who currently seek to remove the term ‘gender’ from UN human rights documents and replace it, in most cases, with the word ‘women’. We cannot give a free pass to any public official or a community or a religious leader who promulgates hateful and discriminatory sentiments against trans people, for this rhetoric contaminates public opinion and ultimately materialises into policy.

Members of the LGBTQ community have organised robust protests throughout the week in response to the administration’s memo; they held two major rallies in D.C. and New York (more are planned for the weekend) and have flooded social media with the hashtag #Won’tBeErased. Yet, we must ask ourselves: is that enough? After all, this isn’t merely a trans issue or a queer issue, but a human rights issue. It is inconceivable that an entire segment of the population is on the verge of being wiped off the federal lexicon (which as history indicates is one step before being wiped off period) and only queer people and close allies of the community raise their voice in protest. People must understand that an attack on one is an attack on all and that the dehumanisation of a minority, no matter how small, ultimately deprives the entire society of its rights and instigates the crumbling of its Democracy. Just like the women’s march or the Muslim ban or the separation of migrant children—this should be an issue that unites the entire country (or a significant portion of it at least) under one banner and serves as a piercing alarm to all.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
And there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemöller

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