According to a recently obtained memo, the Trump Administration is working on a new initiative to dismantle rights and protections for transgender individuals by establishing under Title IX a strict definition of sex as unchangeable and assigned at birth based on genitalia.
“The Trump Administration is once again doing everything in its power to carry out a mean-spirited attack on transgender individuals who deserve and need civil rights protections,” read a statement by the Feminist Majority Foundation. “This overt attack on trans lives is at odds with scientific fact, multiple federal court rulings, and the lived experiences of millions of Americans.”
The Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading this initiative to weaponize Title IX, the federal civil rights law that guarantees equal access to education by banning gender based discrimination. They have called on the Departments of Education, Justice, and Labor to adopt their proposed uniform definition of sex.
Under their plan, the sex assigned to a person at birth would be unchangeable, and any dispute would require a person to undergo genetic testing. This rule would disregard the lives of 1.4 million Americans who currently identify themselves with a sex that does not match that of their birth certificate.
“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients—what people understand about themselves—is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E Lhamon, former leader of the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. She goes on to say that the plan “quite simply negates the humanity of people.”
In a statement released by the National Center for Transgender Equality, NCTE president Mara Keisling said, “To transgender people: 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. But this administration is also staffed by inexperienced amateurs overplaying their hand by taking extreme positions that ignore law, medicine, and basic human decency.”
This issue is most seen in the media in relation to the bathroom debate, where multiple federal courts have upheld the rights of transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity as a condition of Title IX. Despite these rulings, the Department of Education announced in February that that they would no longer investigate or take action to protect transgender students who are denied access. Approximately 150,000 teenagers 13 to 17 identify as transgender.
President Obama had issued a Dear Colleague letter during his administration arguing that education equity under Title IX protects transgender students’ access to whichever restroom corresponds with their gender identity. But in 2017 the Trump administration rescinded that assertion, leading to a scrambled response among the judiciary.
The Trump Administration has also tried to argue that Title VII does not protect LGBT people from employment discrimination, though multiple federal courts have ruled that it does.
Media Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation 10/22/18; Feminist Newswires 2/27/18, 5/29/18; New York Times 10/21/18; National Center for Transgender Equality 10/21/18