Transgender rights are human rights. Full stop. Transgender people are human beings. Full stop. These things are not negotiable.
Unfortunately, the people who are leading this country, people who represent literally the worst of America (hateful, racist, sexist, uninterested, anti-science, spiteful, petty, violent — the list goes on and on), are in charge of every branch of the federal government right now. And the people defining the rules want to define transgender people right out of existence.
Granted, that is not how language works. You can’t just say, “Oh, this means something different now” and said thing ceases to exist. For example, if the federal government wanted to declare that the term “Halloween candy” only refers to candy corn, that doesn’t mean Reese’s peanut- butter pumpkins no longer exist. It does mean, however, that any statues that, say, protect Halloween candy from discrimination would only protect candy corn, all other candy be damned.
So when I say the Trump administration wants to define trans folks out of existence, that’s not technically true, because trans people will still exist as they always have.
According to the New York Times, “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 government-wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil-rights law.”
This, of course, is not surprising considering how vocally anti-trans Trump has been. Remember when Trump tweeted out that trans troops were no longer welcome to serve in the military? Republicans across the country have been similarly hostile, feverishly crafting legislation to keep trans folks from using public restrooms.
“The Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX,” the Times continued, which is “the federal civil-rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.”
If you’ll recall, when Obama, a decent human being with a moral compass, was president, the “legal concept” of gender was “loosened.” According to the Times, it meant “recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth.”
This helped transgender and gender-nonconforming people secure some much-needed protections. Much-needed because transgender people are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. They are the object of ridicule, scorn, hate and violence.
So if the Trump administration does this, trans people will be stripped of any protections they have received because they are no longer included in the very definition of gender. Poof. Trans folks are gone into a semantic abyss.
Only the genitals you’re born with and the sex assigned at birth would “count.” As the Times reported, “Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”
This is terrible in all sorts of ways. For one thing, it also erases intersex people who are born with ambiguous genitalia. Not to mention the fact that chromosomes do not necessarily correspond with what’s between your legs.
The Trump administration is basically calling for a penis/vagina registry.
There has been backlash against the Trump administration’s plan. “We must not give up the fight,” tweeted “Orange Is The New Black” actress Laverne Cox. “But in the face of this affront on my existence and the existence of my community, I choose love not fear. We exist and always have.”
Cox continued, “Trans people have been under attack by this administration from day 1 and in state legislatures for years now.”
Cisgender people, if there ever was a time to shout from the rooftops that you support trans people, this is it. Because, make no mistake, the Trump administration will not stop at defining gender to exclude trans people. Eventually they’ll decide who “counts” as a woman or a man and make the laws accordingly. I’ve read “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I’ve seen the rampant misogyny supported by Trump and his Republicans. This isn’t headed anywhere good.
So yes, as Cox advises, choose love, not fear. But make sure the thing you love the most is voting, because the only way to turn back the tide of hate is to vote the haters out of office.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.