Trump Administration Considers to Redefine Gender

The Trump administration is considering redefining federal gender assignment so that it will be determined by a person’s anatomy from birth, according to a leaked memo draft obtained on Oct. 21 by the New York Times.

According to the memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, obtained and reviewed by the Times, the department argued 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.” This would take away recognition and legal protection of transgender individuals under the federal law.

“I’m very discouraged by the proposed changes because I think they move us backward; we have come to understand so much about gender being so much more than just physiology or anatomy,” said David Macey, assistant vice president for Global and Cultural Competencies at the University of Central Oklahoma“Gender is a complex psychosocial reality of who we are and we have been making steady progress in understanding, recognizing, accommodating and affirming the very different ways in which people experience gender and know themselves as gendered individuals.”

Lindsey Churchill, director for the Women’s Outreach Center and BGLTQ+ Student Center, said this is a move that is going to cause unnecessary harm and it’s not backed by science or research. Through this, Churchill said the government would completely erase transgender individuals. 

UCO has an Equal Opportunity policy, which is currently a requirement for universities to have, but under the definition change by the Trump administration, this would no longer be a requirement.

Adrienne Martinez, UCO Title IX coordinator, said in reference to gender, the university will continue to uphold the current policy for the community, even if gender is redefined under the Trump Administration.

We will continue to provide options for someone who reports discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender identity, including transgender identity,” Martinez said.

Caitlin Oakley, national spokesperson for the HHS, said they do not comment on alleged, leaked documents that purport to indicate the status of deliberations or the focus of the department.

“The Obama administration’s broad definition of ‘sex’ was enjoined by a federal court on a nationwide basis in December 2016 and the Obama administration did not appeal,” Oakley said. “That court found that the Obama administration regulation was overbroad and inconsistent with the text of the 1972 Title IX law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex.”

Oakley said the court order remains in full force and effect today, and the department is bound by it as they continue to review the issue.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and HHS’s Office for Civil Rights will continue to vigorously enforce all laws as written and passed by Congress, prohibiting discrimination in healthcare on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age and disability,” Oakley said.

According to the memo, any dispute about one’s gender would have to be clarified using genetic testing. Currently, there are approximately 1.4 million Americans that have federally opted to be recognized as a gender other than the one they were born as.

“This is not fair in any way. First off, approximately 1.7 percent of the population is intersex, and intersex individuals do not fit these narrow definitions of ‘male’ or ‘female’ due to variations in genitalia, chromosomes, internal organs, etc.,” Churchill said. “They would essentially be forced into something that is scientifically unsound and could cause emotional damage.”

Macey, who said this change is a major setback for civil rights, said genetic testing to dispute one’s sex is not fair, “because what we are talking about in gender is a set of a deep, internal, innate, psychological identification of how we are understand ourselves and that goes above and beyond any question of our chromosomes.”

In response to this announcement, there have been several rallies around the country protesting the Trump Administration’s consideration of redefinition. In Oklahoma there was a “We Will Not Be Erased: Protest for Trans and Intersex Rights” rally held on Saturday at the state capitol.

Speakers at the rally shared their experiences, thoughts and opinions on the matter. UCO’s own Student Alliance for Equality, and the Women’s Research Center and the BGLTQ+ Student Center were present at the rally.

“I’m pretty stressed out and pretty upset about it. Trump is trying to go back on protection laws for the trans community, and I feel unsafe and unvalidated,” said Fernanda Casanova, UCO student and protestor at the rally. “I’m hoping that things can change, and I’m hoping that our voices are heard, because they clearly are not listening to us, so that is why I am here today.”

After the New York Times released their article, there have also been protest posts made on social media with the hashtag, “#WontBeErased.”

“Make no mistake, trans people are under direct attack from the Trump administration — but we #WontBeErased. We’re here. You can’t define us out of existence,” tweeted the National Center for Transgender Equality on Oct. 21.

Churchill said for students, faculty and staff that want to find more ways to get involved in activism surrounding this issue and other issues in the LGBTQ+ community to visit the Women’s Outreach Center and BGLTQ+ Student Center in Thatcher Hall.

The Student Alliance for Equality, the Peer Health Leaders, the Women’s Research Center and the BGLTQ+ Student Center all stand firmly with our transgender, intersex and genderqueer students,” Macey said.

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