Sparking immediate outrage among LGBTQ Americans and allies on Sunday, the New York Times reported on a memo revealing that "the Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law."
"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."
—Mara Keisling, NCTE
In a move that "would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves—surgically or otherwise—as a gender other than the one they were born into," the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is currently considering a legal definition that "would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with," according to the Times.
The memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since the spring, claims that "sex means a person's status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth," and notes that under the proposed definition, "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."
Advocates for LGBTQ rights, while infuriated by the proposal, were quick to point to the administration's lengthy record of attacks on trans individuals the and ongoing legal battles to challenge such attacks.
"Not only is this insulting, inhumane, and unacceptable, but it also flies in the face of THE LAW," Lambda Legal, a civil rights group that focuses on the LGBTQ community, responded in a series of tweets. "This decision by HHS to attempt to erase transgender people disregards and flouts the overwhelming case law that protects transgender people under federal law, as well as the vast consensus of medical authority."
"This is clearly another ideologically-driven attempt by the Trump/Pence administration to marginalize transgender people and force them into the shadows," the group added. "This will not stand because we will not let it stand."
"Singling out and stigmatizing your transgender constituents isn't just the antithesis of constituent service; it's dangerous and gets us killed."
—Danica Roem, Virginia state delegate
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), also denounced steps by the administration to deny trans Americans full recognition of their identities.
"This proposal is an attempt to put heartless restraints on the lives of two million people, effectively abandoning our right to equal access to healthcare, to housing, to education, or to fair treatment under the law," she warned. "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."
Planned Parenthood Action declared, "These inhumane, cruel, and discriminatory policies are dangerous and do not represent the needs of our diverse communities."
This is horrifying. These inhumane, cruel, and discriminatory policies are dangerous and do not represent the needs of our diverse communities. https://t.co/qQaVwnGamI
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) October 21, 2018
The cruelty and bigotry of this administration truly has no limit. We should be doing everything we can to protect our transgender brothers and sisters. https://t.co/pD4dZ6tULc
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— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 21, 2018
Danica Roem—who, last November, became Virginia's first openly transgender state House member by defeating the anti-trans Republican incumbent—noted: "Singling out and stigmatizing your transgender constituents isn't just the antithesis of constituent service; it's dangerous and gets us killed."
Singling out and stigmatizing your transgender constituents isn’t just the antithesis of constituent service; it’s dangerous and gets us killed.
I shouldn’t have to have more faith in @LambdaLegal than the POTUS to prevent this horror show but here we are.https://t.co/m6JRdeRhl7
— Danica Roem (@pwcdanica) October 21, 2018
Since Trump took office, hate-inspired murders of LGBTQ Americans have skyrocketed as his administration has taken steps to strip away their rights—often in the name of defending "religious freedom." Such steps have included the Education Department's refusal to protect trans students; the Justice Department's efforts to enable discrimination; the State Department's denial of visas to diplomats' same-sex partners; and Trump's moves to ban trans individuals from serving in the military and dismiss his entire advisory council for HIV/AIDS.
From hate-fueled murders to the Trump administration's discriminatory policies, trans Americans often have been specifically targeted. As Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, told the Times, "At every step where the administration has had the choice, they've opted to turn their back on transgender people."
While some critics characterized the Times report as "a terrifying wake-up call," Evan Greer of Fight for the Future said, "Exactly zero trans people are surprised by the Trump administration's latest attack."
Exactly zero trans people are surprised by the Trump administration's latest attack. Let's be perfectly clear: if this policy goes into effect, people will die. And the path was paved not by fundamentalists, but by ivory tower academics who decided our existence was up for debate
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) October 21, 2018
"No one should have to suffer just to be true to themselves," Keisling charged Sunday. "And yet transgender people are still often forced from their homes, fired from their jobs, harassed at their schools, and denied the most basic level of dignity by a broken system."
Addressing the transgender community directly, she said: "I know you are frightened. I know you are horrified to see your existence treated in such an inhumane and flippant manner. What this administration is trying to do is an abomination, a reckless attack on your life and mine."
"Remember that there is an entire human rights community that not only stands with us but will always fight back—and fight hard," she concluded. "Thousands of us have devoted our lives to protecting you and your families, and our ability to do so is nothing short of a privilege. And we will not lay down now."