Gender Identity Theft

Transgender rights are human rights

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Illustration by Darin Connoly

There are 1.4 million recorded transgender people living in the U.S. As far as the Trump administration is concerned, their lives don’t exist.

An October 2018 memo from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed the department’s intentions to restrict Title IX’s definition of sex, which currently includes gender, and make it uniform across major government agencies. The proposed definition states an individual’s legally recognized sex, male or female, is the one they were assigned at birth. If the definition passes, this assignment would be permanent and could only be disputed through genetic testing.

HHS is refusing to acknowledge the validity of transgender and gender-nonconforming lives. This is ignorant, unfair and unacceptable.

In the memo, the department describes its desire to determine gender through biology as something “grounded in science.” However, according to the Intersex Society of North America, between 1 in 1,500 and 1 in 2,000 babies are born with atypical genitalia. The decision to redefine gender isn’t based on science — it’s discriminatory at its core and representative of transphobic ideals held by conservatives.

Though Trump claims to be protecting all lives, it’s obvious that the current administration has never cared about transgender communities or lives. Every action the government takes to further sideline gender nonconforming lives proves how unconcerned conservative politicians are about populations they don’t fit into. Officials aren’t just taking rights away from people, they are taking away their  humanity.

Over 150,000 transgender youth would see repercussions in school, where Title IX applies to experiences relating to gender identity. Transgender students might not be able to participate in physical education classes or play on sports teams in line with their gender identity. They could lose their right to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

A survey conducted by GLSEN, a national education organization focused on creating more inclusive environments in schools, found that 75 percent of transgender youth feel unsafe at school. They are more likely to experience verbal and physical harassment from their peers, teachers and administrators than their cisgender classmates.

HHS is doing nothing to make them feel — or be — any safer. They are making it more dangerous for transgender and gender-nonconforming students to receive an education, solely because they don’t conform to traditional gender norms.

Beyond the classroom, HHS’s proposed definition  of sex would also impact how transgender people receive health care. The Affordable Care Act currently protects transgender individuals from sex-based discrimination in health programs receiving federal funding, but if HHS moves forward with its changed definition, these protections are likely  to  disappear.

Care for transgender health, including counseling, hormone treatment and surgeries, would become even harder to access for those seeking it. Transition-related medical care is already explicitly excluded from Medicaid coverage in 10 states, while 22 states have no explicit policy regarding transgender  care.

It doesn’t end there.

Transgender and gender-nonconforming people would receive no protection from discrimination in their search for employment and housing. It would be almost impossible for them to update their identity documents. Their right to exist is being encroached upon at a new extreme.

This is just the latest action taken by the Trump administration to roll back on the minimal progress made by the Obama administration. It worked to prevent transgender people from serving in the military and ignored the gender identity of transgender inmates when placing them in housing facilities.

Every step they took so far regarding transgender rights has been backwards.

HHS wants to formally propose its regressive definition of sex to the Justice Department before the year ends. If it passes, the fears of invalidation and discrimination held by the transgender community will become a terrifying reality.

Members of the transgender community and the larger LGBTQIA+ community met the release of the memo with outrage. People flooded social media with posts and expressed disappointment regarding the administration’s actions with the hashtag #WontBeErased. Rallies for transgender lives drew several hundreds in New York and Washington, D.C.. 

Identity is a right that belongs to the individual. It is not a privilege to be earned. Despite this, the government continues to act like it is something they can give or take from somebody at will.

The unjust treatment of marginalized groups will only continue if the people who hold these bigoted ideas remain in office. The midterm elections on Nov. 6 could take power out of ignorant hands and give it to those who care about lives besides their own. Your vote matters now more than ever. Give it to those who will fight for the civil rights and protection of groups like the transgender community.

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