The Trump administration is considering a new policy that would narrowly redefine “sex,” affecting millions of adults who identify as a gender other than the one listed on their birth certificates.
According to a Department of Health and Human Services memorandum obtained by The New York Times, the administration is proposing that several government agencies redefine sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”
If adopted, the policy would not only undo everything the Obama administration had done to protect transgender people, but it would also virtually erase federal recognition for Americans who identify as a gender different than the one they were born with.
This proposal was drafted under the assumption that sex and gender are the same thing, which is not always the case. Sex is often identified by the biological parts on the human body, while gender is something that has been socially constructed through our culture. Gender is most commonly seen through assigning the color pink for girls and blue for boys.
The memo goes on to say, “Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”
This hypothetical genetic testing would have to look at the chromosomes of the individual in question. But this testing neglects to understand the reality of intersex individuals who may have genitals or physical characteristics that do not match their chromosomal makeup.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first policy which targets the LGBTQ community. In fact, over the past two years, Trump’s administration has tried to implement several policies that would negatively affect transgender people.
In 2017, Trump tried to reinstate a ban on trans people joining and openly serving in the military. His argument was based on the idea that “Trans-related health care is expensive.” Thankfully, Trump’s ban was disregarded by the courts, and as of right now, trans people are still able to enlist and serve in the military.
Dr. Kara French, assistant professor of history at Salisbury University, feels very strongly against this memorandum.
“I think the proposed changes, if they are implemented, could be very negative for members of the LGBTQ community,” she said. “There is potential not only to undo federal protections for transgender individuals, but also for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in education, housing and federal employment.”
If the government were to implement this policy, it would alter all identity documents, including passports, driver’s licenses and other forms of required identification for transgender people. The documents would no longer accurately represent their bodies if they had undergone surgery or taken hormones.
If you are a Salisbury student who wants to voice your opinion, the time is now.
“To students, I would say that for right now this is just a memo, not a policy, so there is still time to oppose it if they feel negatively about it. They should call their representatives in Congress and encourage them to oppose any policy change that would strip protections from LGBTQ people,” said French. “While we in Maryland have a robust anti-discrimination law that protects both sexual orientation and gender identity, people in other states do not.”
Imagine being born into a body in which you feel you don’t belong. Imagine having to get up every morning and enter society, all while feeling like a stranger in your own skin. This is the reality for many people every day. This harsh policy won’t erase transgender people, but would only make their lives harder. If this is the land of the free, why would we allow a policy that would force people to become prisoners in their own bodies?
By MELANIE RAIBLE