#WontBeErased: Trump Administration Moves to Erase Transgender Identities
Cover Photo by Sarah Epperson
On October 21, 2018, The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) proposed an initiative to define the legal definition of “sex” under Title IX, which is a federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance. 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. By placing a more strict cap on the definition of sex, this initiative would undermine the laws in place that already ban gender discrimination. Sex and gender are not the same thing, but this proposal would make an individuals biological sex unchangeable unless a genetic and blood test is done proving otherwise, which in turn makes transgender and gender identity invalid.
The DHHS has come up with a loophole rendering that DNA and blood results cannot be altered, therefore neither can sex and gender. This is disheartening to transgender individuals, allies and advocates alike.
The new definition proposed in the memo states
“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 issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
This definition would essentially erase an estimate of 1.4 million Transgender Americans who do not identify as their biological sex.
This proposal is even more awing because 2018 has seen several triumphs in the direction of transgender inclusivity. A brief overview of some of the progressive laws passed this year:
In 2018, five additional states (Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, New Hampshire and Maryland) made conversion therapy illegal for minors in 2018 alone. This brings the count to 14 total states who have criminalized the practice of conversion therapy.
On May 4, 2018, Connecticut became the first state to give transgender prisoners the legal right to be housed according to their gender identity.
On June 11, 2018, Maine began issuing the gender marker ‘X’ to replace male and female designation on current ID’s and Drivers Licenses and plan to begin printing ID’s with a third gender option in 2019.
On October 1, 2018, Minnesota updated their online application system for their Department of Motor Vehicles to allow a third gender neutral option that was effective immediately.
On October 11, 2018, New York State signed a bill that allows an “X” option for gender neutrality on birth certificates. This bill also allows adult residents who don’t identify as either male or female to change the gender marker on their birth certificate to “X” without consultation of a doctor or mental health physician. This becomes effective in January 2019.
The potential narrowing of the definition of “sex” has sparked the #WontBeErased movement, which is not just a social media hashtag, but has sparked almost immediate protest. Several cities, including New York City have organized marches and rallies after The New York Times published the article which broke the news on the morning of Sunday, October 21, 2018. LGBT activists organized a rally outside the White House Monday morning, with an estimated several hundreds in attendance. Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD, said “You saw such a massive response because this attack on the trans community is essentially trying to erase the trans community from the face of this country, and we’re not going to stand for that.”