President Donald J. Trump promised to support the LGBT community during his 2016 presidential campaign. Since his election, however, his administration has worked to consistently undermine transgender rights. A memo obtained by The New York Times details the latest move: Trump’s administration is considering redefining gender as a “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth” that is either male or female. This constitutes an imminent threat to the security of transgender people and would violate the civil rights of at least 1.4 million transgender Americans. The U.S.’s withdrawal from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in January was not symbolic; Trump’s proposed legal redefinition of gender is just one of many actions in the administration’s dismissal of human rights and minority groups.
This year alone, the Trump administration banned transgender people from participating in military service, decided that transgender people must be placed with people of their assigned sex at birth in federal prisons and allowed businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community based on religious exemption, allowing for further discrimination against transgender individuals. U.S. officials are even attempting to rewrite gendered language in UN human rights documents — mainly by exchanging phrases like “gender-based violence” with “violence against women” — in ways that would allow for legal discrimination against transgender individuals.
Trump’s reversal on his promise to support the LGBT community is unsurprising given that his second-in-command, Mike Pence, has a significant anti-LGBT track record; Pence signed religious liberty legislation as Indiana governor that permits discrimination against LGBT individuals and helped draft the administration’s ban on transgender individuals from open military service.
Trump’s anti-transgender agenda is not a vague possibility blown out of proportion by liberal fearmongers. It is a real and tangible shift toward the dehumanization of transgender individuals in the U.S. and across the world.
The U.S. Departments of Education; Labor; and Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama offered protections to transgender people in education and employment practices and ensured access to health care for transgender individuals — signs that the administration recognized that individuals who don’t conform to the gender-binary were vulnerable to discrimination. The proposed narrower definition of gender described in the memo would mean health insurers that currently cover procedures related to gender-affirmation would be less likely to cover the cost of transition services; hiring discrimination against transgender individuals could become legal and the decision would likely be deeply felt in school and college locker rooms and bathrooms. If the Trump administration successfully redefines gender to exclude transgender individuals from Title IX protections, the ramifications for college students could be even more extensive.
The Trump administration’s failure to recognize the legitimacy of transgender existence is ignorant and its pursuit of an exclusionary redefinition of gender is a legal codification of discrimination.
The Editorial Board is composed of Zach Ball, Jacob Busch, Ryan Fan, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Omar Obregon-Cuebas, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois, Madison Stephens and Kimia Tabatabaei.