By this point, you’ve probably read or heard of the New York Times article about the current administration’s attempt to redefine sex and write trans folks out of existence. The effort is being taken up by the Department of Health and Human Sevices, as they try to redefine ‘sex’ under Title IX (the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination). According to the New York Times, a part of the memo reads:
“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth. The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issues, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
This new definition, if made official, would erase the federal recognition of 1.4 million people in the US who identify as transgender and thus, do not identify as their assigned gender at birth. This administration, through a series of other moves as well, is attempting to dismiss and erase an entire identity and a marginalized community. And it is utter and complete bullshit.
- Trump Cannot Define Away My Existence by Jennifer Finney Boylan, The New York Times
Gender is much more than what is between our legs. It can be hard for cisgender folks (those who do identify with their assigned gender) to understand what it’s like to be transgender, gender nonconforming, or intersex. In her first book, ‘Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality’, Sarah McBride writes about this and says in particular that “it’s really difficult for folks that aren’t transgender to really wrap their mind around the feeling of having a gender identity that differs from their sex assigned at birth. But for me, it felt like a constant feeling of homesickness”.
- Transgender People and Allies Rally Against Trump Plan at Protests and on Social Media by Sarah Mervosh, The New York Times
By limiting and narrowing the definition of gender, we limit ourselves and the plethora of gender expressions and identities that exist outside of the binary. This memo and the additional attempts to eradicate trans and gender non-conforming folks are obviously dangerous to trans and gender non-conforming people, as it takes away what little federal recognition and protections we had as a community. It also perpetuates the dangerous notion that trans people are somehow “wrong” about our gender, which can lead to violence from cis folks and high rates of mental illness (like anxiety and/or depression) and suicidal thoughts/attempts. Gay and trans panic defenses, for example, are still being used to defend violence inflicted against LGBTQ folks around the country.
This rhetoric has always been about erasing trans people from public life. It’s always been about discouraging trans people from participation in public life. It’s never been about just the technicalities of it all.
— 𝕶𝖆𝖙 𝕭𝖑𝖆𝖖𝖚𝖊 (@kat_blaque) 21 October 2018
This memo is also yet another attempt at erasing trans folks from the public. If you can’t go to the bathroom while out/at school or go to bars/clubs because your ID doesn’t match up with who you are or travel because again, your ID doesn’t match, it’s hard to find places that are safe. Even finding housing that’s trans-friendly (like dorms or apartments) can be difficult because many schools have gendered dorms and landlords might be transphobic. Alexandra Erin has a great thread on Twitter where you can read about all of this.
Are you looking for a way to make a difference or a trans person or organization to support? Here are some ways to do just that:
- Hell No to the Memo: 7 Action Items to Protect Trans and GNC People from Out.Com
- Sarah Mirk’s little zine on how to be an ally to trans folks
- Support trans folks. Find someone through the Twitter hashtag #TransCrowdFund. Many folks are trying to raise much needed funds for medical care or other bills.
- Here are some great organizations to support:
Are you also looking to learn more about gender, transgender people, and more? There are so many resources to start learning. Here are a few books and films:
- Major! is a 2016 documentary about the legendary trans advocate, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.
- Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride
- Violence against trans women of color
- Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock
- Ian Harvie is a trans comedian and a few years ago, he did a set at the LA Trans Pride! He also did a Tedx Talk in December of 2015 too. Watch it below.