The Trump administration wants to legally erase the existence of transgender people by defining gender “as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” The New York Times reports.
According to a circulating official memo obtained by the newspaper of record, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to redefine gender in an effort to exclude trans people from federal non-discrimination protections, which could eliminate LGBTQ protections across other federal agencies:
“The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined ’on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.’ The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”
Roger Severino, HHS’ transphobic director of the Office for Civil Rights, is reportedly spearheading the effort under Title IX, the federal civil rights law banning gender discrimination in education programs that receive financial assistance from the government.
“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” reads the memo, which was reportedly drafted last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
Trump administration officials say HHS is preparing to formally present this new definition of gender to the Justice Department for approval before the end of the year.
This move may be the most significant yet in the government’s continued effort to eliminate federal recognition and civil rights protections for an estimated 1.4 million transgender Americans.
The Trump administration has already tried to implement a transgender military ban, rolled back Obama-era protections for trans students and inmates, and eliminated questions pertaining directly to gender identity on the 2020 Census.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) October 21, 2018
“Right now, this administration is firmly on the wrong side of history,” says HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow. “And, if they successfully move forward with these regulations, we’ll turn our eyes to Congress to advance the Equality Act and ensure that LGBTQ people are explicitly protected by our nation’s civil rights laws.”
“When a young person hears that their existence and gender identity will not be recognized by their government, they hear that they are not worthy to be a part of that nation,” responds Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project. “Transgender youth seeing this report should know that they are not alone and that their identity is valid—nothing the government does can change that.”
“This administration is willing to disregard the established medical and legal view of our rights and ourselves to solidify an archaic, dogmatic, and frightening view of the world,” writes Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a statement. “This transparent political attack will not succeed administratively, legally, or morally.”
“If this administration is hoping to demoralize us, they will be disappointed,” Keisling continues. “If they are hoping we will give up, they should reconsider the power of our persistence and our fury.”