ART BY ESTELLE ZHOU
The pen meets paper…and through this interaction, an epitaph is written—an epitaph of the civil right laws passed under the Obama era.
What killed them? The Trump administration.
Last spring, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) planned to redefine sex, a topic of long discussion since Obama’s administration loose enforcement in Title IX.
This federal civil rights law expressly prohibits sex based discrimination in educational institutions. Under the Obama era, the Department of Education redefined the statute to include transgender students. By doing so, transgender students are classified as the gender they identify as.
In a memo obtained by the New York Times, the DHHS is in the makings of establishing a new legal definition on the once federally accepted interpretation of gender: “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” By the end of this year, the DHHS will send this proposal to the Department of Justice (DOJ). If the DOJ approves, then fundamental aspects of Title IX will be modified, uppercutting the changes which protected transgender youth.
So why should we care?
This new definition inadvertently redefines years of progressive transgender protective rights. And with the looming midterm elections threatening to overturn the optimal conservatism currently in power in the United States, this seems to be the perfect time to push for redefinition.
Even with the political majority that the right-wing government behind this change currently holds, there is no guarantee that such a proposal will pass without a fight. We, the citizens directly affected by such a change, represent and include the voices of transgender, cisgender, intersex, gay, lesbian, queer, and straight people. We will stand up for what is fair for everyone: we are a union.
Ironically, the actions that the Trump administration pushed have left the United States anything but united, and the inclusive programs created for the LGBTQ community–specifically transgender individuals–under the Obama era are now null and void.
Transgender rights are human rights. To diminish their identities by simplifying the realm of sex under the guise of administrative purposes, the country forces transgender people to conform to something they are not. Reducing people to the biological features between their legs is completely disrespectful and highly inconsiderate of the decade-long strides the country has made in order to come to the acceptance it has for such individuals today.
And this is where the problem lies: a fundamental difference on the definition of sex. Such a narrow rendering of gender will never be feasible because gender itself is a wide, complex subject.
To illustrate, intersex individuals are born with genitalia not corresponding to traditional male and female medians. However, intersex is a spectrum, and not all people show its characteristics until puberty. So, going by the current proposed definition, what will gender of the boy who developed female anatomy at age 13 be? He may be a man by birth, but clearly, he is not: he is intersex. Seemingly glaring holes only speaks for the incomplete nature of the proposal.
Under the Obama administration, Title IX enforced transgender protective rights. However, the shift of powers between Democrat and Republican representatives also induced a shift from ideologies. Proposals to redefine Title IX or laws that dismantle the policies from the Obama era are not new.
Indeed, reforms occur; yet, when it comes to uppercutting the safety of transgender youth to simplify federal processes, it is not a political difference; it becomes a moral one.
Among the most controversial decisions President Trump has made are his multiple attempts to bar transgender individuals from serving in the military. While these radical ideas were denied, actions under the Trump agenda were pushed by Trump’s administrative power.
Take, for example, the Trump’s blatant overturning of the transgender student bathroom policies, as described in Title IX. Supporters of the rescindment argued that the previous decision invited predators to freely roam public school restrooms.
In another case, federal prisons will use the biological sex of individuals to determine where inmates will be placed. The line of reasoning was to not only protect the inmates but those around them.
In both of these cases, there is a clear pushback in government policy that inhibits the rights of transgender people. Essentially, the argument these proponents propose is that predators will “dress as a transgenders person” to gain access to a restroom. However, this has one clear flaw: transgender people are not above the law. Moreover, while supporters of these decisions claim that they are “protecting the children,” these proposals ultimately set a social stigma against transgender people.
Funnily enough, while “making America great again” may be the true intentions of the Trump administration, the president has again and again failed to consider the succession of all Americans in his numerous policies. Simply put, these targeted setbacks have exceeded its threshold, and without any clear benefit, it makes one wonder if these are a result of an ingrained hatred and bigotry towards the LGBTQ community.
If the motion passes, what will happen next? Will gay couples lose their marriage rights? That is certainly a possibility, seeing as this setback on transgender freedom has been so rashly supported. This obvious disdain towards LGBTQ people declares a motive for further restrictions on more liberties.
Nevertheless, change occurs by voicing our opinions: thousands have already taken to social media to protest the setbacks in our government through use of such hashtags as “WontBeErased.”
As our country falls deeper down the path of the Trump presidency, we must remember the values and the progress that we, as a country, have made in past years. With the insensitivities that the Trump administration have imposed on our country thus far, he will undoubtedly continue on this destructive path of setbacks if our country does not truly unite for the freedoms and fairness for all citizens, not the just those benefiting from fitting our president’s mold of an ideal citizen.