By McKenna Middleton | Opinion Editor
The New York Times reported Oct. 21 that the Trump administration is considering narrowing the definition of gender as biological, unchangeable and determined at birth, a policy that would essentially erase the identity and privacy rights of 1.4 million transgender citizens – a group larger than the entire population of Dallas.
The news demonstrates the Trump administration’s willingness to put the privacy and identity rights of over a million citizens at risk in order to participate in wedge politics. Even if you don’t identify as transgender, it is imperative that we voice our dissent over this policy suggestion. We must speak up with marginalized groups, showing our alliance with their fight to be recognized as themselves by society and the government.
The New York Times acquired a memo from the Department of Health and Human Services that pushed for government agencies like the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to accept a legal definition of gender based “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” That is to say, sex would be seen as binary (male or female) and determined by genitalia at birth. The new definition would fall under Title IX, the civil rights law in place to protect against gender discrimination in educational settings, the memo said.
“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,” the memo said.
This change operates on an overly simplistic worldview that sees everything as black and white, male and female, fact and lie. However, contemporary society is built on the idea of dynamic social constructs and values individual experiences. Natural, scientific occurrences like Turner Syndrome, in which an individual has only one X chromosome, and intersex, in which an individual is born with “ambiguous genitalia,” challenge this emphasis on finding a clear-cut, “scientific” definition of sex.
One of the most troubling aspects of this policy is the way it invades transgender individuals’ most basic privacy rights. The memo’s caveat that “reliable genetic evidence,” alluding to genetic testing, will be utilized to confirm an individual’s “true” sex violates our common understanding of the government’s limitations.
Overall, this policy suggestion is a prime example of wedge politics. For example, arguments over which bathroom transgender individuals should use has been a hot topic in recent years, and Pew Research Center reports that the consensus is split down party lines. All this is despite the fact that the courts have already ruled in favor of transgender students using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, not their biological sex at birth. This is not a political issue. This is a human rights issue.
Just because you may not identify as transgender does not mean that experience is invalid or should be erased through a legal definition that ignores their existence.
After the New York Times released the contents of the memo, the hashtag #WontBeErased was all over social media, emphasizing sentiments from the LGBTQIA+ community that this policy threatens their very identity. This policy is operating on such an ignorance for what transgender people go through.
“What this feels like to transgender people is trying to make us invisible, trying to say that we don’t exist, trying to say that we are nothing,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the New York Times.
Transgender people are people, and they should be treated as such. They are not pawns in a political game. They are not subhuman for diverging from heteronormative standards. That fact seems so evident to some, yet so contradictory to others.
We have all been taught to love our neighbor, and transgender individuals fall into that classification. Loving your neighbor means respecting them and ensuring that you and others around you treat them with basic human decency. Since this policy threatens that, it is our duty to oppose this policy.
If the government is willing to dispose of the rights of one community of over one million Americans, who’s next? How many marginalized groups have to be targeted by this administration before we speak up?
Join the conversation on social media with #WontBeErased and call your representatives to demand this policy suggestion be rejected.