News Law and Policy

Trump Administration Mulls Strict Gender Definitions in Attempt to Eliminate Transgender Rights

Katelyn Burns

The memo comes on the heels of a series of anti-trans Trump administration policies.

The Trump administration is exploring a new policy seemingly targeting the transgender community by narrowly defining gender, according to a memo obtained by the New York Times.

Created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the memo argues “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,'” according to the Times. “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,” the report continues. Disputes over one’s sex would be resolved by genetic testing, the Times reports.

The memo theorizes that transgender people were “wrongfully” given civil rights under Title IX and Title VII anti-discrimination laws. It’s an apparent effort to marshal key government agencies into using a uniform definition of sex in hopes of making it more palatable to the federal court system. The policy has apparently caused a rift between Trump administration political appointees and career employees at the agency, the Times reported.

The memo comes on the heels of a series of anti-transgender Trump administration policies, including rolling back the rights of trans students, a rollback of trans health care anti-discrimination protections, and attempts to ban trans people from serving in the military.

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National LGBTQ advocacy groups quickly mobilized in light of the news, organizing a rally for trans rights in New York City late Sunday evening and a protest in front of the White House set for Monday afternoon. “This proposal is an attempt to put heartless restraints on the lives of 2 million people, effectively abandoning our right to equal access to health care, to housing, to education, or to fair treatment under the law,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) in a statement. “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.”

Keisling detailed the social, legal, and medical gains the trans community has made in recent years. “It would not eliminate the precedents set by dozens of federal courts over the last two decades affirming the full rights and identities of transgender people,” she said. “It would not undo the consensus of the medical providers and scientists across the globe who see transgender people, know transgender people, and urge everyone to accept us for who we are. And no rule—no administration—can erase the experiences of transgender people and our families.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that the memo was an attack on the entire LGBTQ community and called for the U.S. Congress to act on legislation to implement protections. “This is a direct attack on the fundamental equality of LGBTQ people and, if this administration refuses to reverse course, Congress must immediately take action by advancing the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ people are explicitly protected by our nation’s civil rights laws,” he said.

Planned Parenthood, thought to be the largest provider of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in the United States, released a statement calling the memo “cruel and discriminatory,” promising to continue supporting the trans community with HRT and family planning services. “This move would hurt millions of transgender people’s ability to live free from discrimination and access critical services like health care,” said Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens. “Congress must reject this discriminatory agenda. Planned Parenthood calls on Congress to fight against these inhumane attacks by passing the Equality Act, which would rightfully cement civil rights protections for LGBTQ communities. Every person, no matter their gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation deserves the right to freedom and equality under the law.”

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