The director of the Centers for Disease Control, Robert Redfield, has sounded an alarm around stigma when asked about the Trump administration’s apparent plan to continue going after transgender rights by defining gender as an immutable characteristic defined by genitalia at birth.
STAT Executive Editor Rick Berke questioned Redfield about the leaked trans erasure memo while the two were at the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit, inquiring whether such policy would interfere with efforts to treat HIV, especially among transgender women.
“We need to understand that stigmatizing illness, stigmatizing individuals is not in the interest of public health,” he said, stopping short of criticizing the specific anti-trans proposal as outlined in the memo.
Redfield was not involved in developing the policy, which, according to the Washington Post, is backed by the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC.
The proposal, which could have far-reaching impacts on the implementation of civil rights law for trans and non-binary individuals, has been widely criticized as anti-science.
“By not accounting for someone’s gender, outside of biological binary, you’re missing a whole component of their health,” Dr. Sari Reisner, an epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told STAT.
“If you just go by sex, you’re not going to accurately capture health disparities. That has implications for interventions and for health care delivery.”
Dr. Joshua Safer, executive director of Mount Sinai Hospital’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, and president of the United States Professional Association for Transgender Health, told Reuters the administration’s definition of gender is “not consistent with current western medicine or science in terms of how we actually operate or define sex of individuals.”
Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family medicine and LGBTQ care specialist, pointed out that the policy does not cover intersex individuals, and could result in intersex babies being assigned either male or female at birth.
When asked about the policy on Monday, Trump told reporters he was attempting to “protect the country.”