In mid October a leaked memo from the Department of Health and Human Services indicated that the Trump Administration intends to proclaim a legal, immovable definition of a person’s sex as either male or female based on “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” This definition would be inserted into federal civil rights law under Title IX, the section that bans gender discrimination in education programs that get government funding. As one can plainly see the narrow definition smudges out a transgender person’s existence into the ether, hence the social media hashtag adopted by those fighting back, #WontBeErased.
Perhaps for those who support the Trump Administration’s agenda, the erasure hearkens a return to a simpler time that they remember, or imagine remembering, when blond-haired, blue-eyed boys and girls played baseball, or with dolls, respectively, in meticulously cut shimmering green lawns surrounded by glowing bright white picket fences in a neat, tidy, ordered U.S.A. where all of your garbage went into one tin can. As we all know, though some will never admit, that suburban pastoral never existed and if we argue that it did, it was designed and constructed to discriminate, to include few and exclude many, the many human beings that cannot be corralled into narrow definitions, like the definition the Trump camp wants to impose upon sex and gender.
The Health and Human Services memo goes on to declare that disputes involving a person’s sex would have to be resolved through genetic testing and I’m led to imagine a gloomy dystopian civil rights office where obedient government employees in drab gray uniforms swab the roof of my mouth for genetic material or simply demand that I pull my trousers down while they take a close and thorough look with a magnifying glass.
The ominous result of the proposed revisions in Title IX would be non-existent protections barring discrimination against transgender people, gender-fluid people, or anybody who doesn’t fit into the male-female binary system the government would like to establish for you in written law. Then, discrimination would be subtly, but genuinely legally allowed. As this would first take place within the context of educational programs that receive government aid, one can foresee the likely snowballing of this exclusion from federal civil rights protections into the workplace, housing, healthcare, etc, all the areas of public life that are already challenges for transgender citizens. It would be a rollback of all the successful inclusions for the LGBTQIA community made manifest during the Obama Era. If the newly proposed language finds its way into Title IX, the precedent will be set and it will become all the more likely that courts will rule in favor of those doing the discriminating. Technically, the ban on discriminating against someone due to their sex will not include a ban on discriminating against someone due to their gender identity.
Trump’s comments on the issue were typically vague and aloof. “They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now,” he said in a brief statement. “We have a lot of different concepts right now.” He added in passing, “I’m protecting everyone.” I am one to believe that those whom the president is most compelled to protect are those who have interest in erasing the protections of others. #WontBeErased