The Trump administration is set to outline a new definition of gender that claims it is unchangeable and determined “at or before birth,” according to a memo from the Department of Health and Human Services obtained by The New York Times.
Under the Obama administration, the parameters regarding gender were made distinctly more fluid. For example, in areas such as education and healthcare, it has become increasingly common for gender to be subject to the wishes of the individual, rather than being something that is unchangeable from birth. Key legislation was passed on the issue, too. Title IX is the federal civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination in education programs that benefit from federal government dollars.
The Department of Education declares that Title IX ensures “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
According to the memo, HHS noted the necessity to rewrite a definition of gender that would ensure various government agencies can define sex “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”
“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department noted in the memo which, according to the Times, has been circulating since last spring. “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.”
According to TIME, there are at least 1.4 million Americans who currently identify as transgender. Should this legal federal re-definition go ahead, it would signal a significant rollback from Obama-era policy on the issue.
As you can imagine, transgender advocacy groups have hit back at the Trump administration. The Transgender Law Center pulled no punches in a tweet addressing the HHS memo:
We’ve always known this administration intends nothing short of the destruction of our communities. Here, written out plain, is their attempt to erase our very existence as transgender people. We #WontBeErased, we will fight back. https://t.co/R9F4UVW7Bk
— TransgenderLawCenter (@TransLawCenter) October 21, 2018
“We’ve always known this administration intends nothing short of the destruction of our communities,” the group claimed. “Here, written out plain, is their attempt to erase our very existence as transgender people. We #WontBeErased, we will fight back.”
“Attacking transgender people – especially transgender women – has become a favorite strategy for authoritarians,” fumed Mischa Haida at the Guardian. “And Trump is no exception.”
The remarks became even more bizarre when trans activist Laverne Cox described the policy laid out in the memo as “another example of the brutality of colonialism.”
In response to the story, Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted out, “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.”
Others took a very different view.
Responding to Jonathan Weisman, the Deputy Washington Editor of The New York Times, conservative pundit Ben Shapiro was blunt and clear about where he stands:
That is literally the definition of sex https://t.co/QUvJyzwbla
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) October 21, 2018
“Whoa, a WOW story — the Trump Admin has a new definition of sex that would render 1.4 million transgendered people legally nonexistent: sex is ‘a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,'” an outraged Weisman tweeted, to which Shapiro simply replied, “That is literally the definition of sex.”
According to CNN, the HHS has refused to comment on the “alleged leaked documents.”