A report from the New York Times suggests the Trump White House is considering plans to legally erase transgender people. This is what it all means and why people are getting so upset
There are plenty of ghoulish things about the Trump administration - but perhaps the most sadistic of all is its willingness to target vulnerable members of society, such as the ongoing international scandal over the rounding up of immigrant babies and putting children in cages.
And the latest proposal out of the White House to remove the legal recognition of transgender people – thus effectively erasing them from legal existence – is being met with similar outrage.
Here’s everything you need to know about the plans - including whether it could lead to changes in the UK.
What is the administration proposing?
According to the New York Times, the Trump administration is considering plans to narrowly define gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by your genitalia at birth.
Such a scheme would roll back years of legal protections for transgender and gender non-binary people which largely recognize gender as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth.
A draft of the Trump administration memo says gender should be determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”
What impact will it have?
According to the Times, the plan would “eradicate federal recognition” of around 1.4 million transgender Americans.
The US Department of Health and Human Services is now preparing to formally present the new definition to the Justice Department, which will determine if the law change is legal.
If it goes into effect, it would affect government agencies including the Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor.
And, according to Vox, if enacted, it could even require some people to produce DNA tests while at school and university.
What’s been the reaction?
Protesters took to the streets of New York City within hours of the leaked story:
And the reaction has been angry, swift and wide-ranging, from politicians to activists to LGBTQ celebrities.
“Setting a destructive precedent, the Trump-Pence administration intends to erase LGBTQ people from federal civil rights protections and eviscerate enforcement of non-discrimination laws,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.
“Defining ‘sex’ in this narrow language tailored to the talking points of anti-equality extremists is part of a deliberate strategy to eliminate federal protections for LGBTQ people. This is a direct attack on the fundamental equality of LGBTQ people and, if this administration refuses to reverse course, Congress must immediately take action by advancing the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ people are explicitly protected by our nation’s civil rights laws.”
Transgender Law Center executive director Kris Hayashi added: “Because of brave people like Ash Whitaker and Gavin Grimm and so many others, transgender and gender nonconforming communities have achieved wins in the courts. Through key victories like Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District and Macy v. Holder, courts and government agencies have made clear that transgender and gender nonconforming people are protected from discrimination under federal civil rights laws and the U.S. Constitution.
“The draft memo the NYT reported on this weekend, a document written by officials at HHS, is transparently a hate-motivated response to these victories. It attempts to rewrite years of progress achieved by advocates under the Obama administration. Here, written out plain, is their attempt to erase our very existence as transgender people. This memo reveals that this administration intends nothing short of our destruction.
“To be clear: nothing this administration can do will undermine the scores of federal courts that have recognized our humanity and hundreds of state and local legal protections we’ve already won.
“Transgender Law Center will fight this as we’ve fought all of the attacks by this administration, and the many attacks that came before the current administration.
“We are a community under attack, but we are not silent and we won’t be erased.”
Why is Trump proposing it?
This isn’t the first time Trump has tried to change the law regarding transgender Americans; he caused an uproar when he tried to ban transgender people from the military. This policy was delayed, at the behest of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and is not currently in effect while it undergoes legal challenges.
So why now?
It’s possible that Trump is trying to motivate his base just before the crucial midterm elections in November in which the Republicans are expected to lose control of the House of Representatives.
These headlines over the transgender law changes also serve as a perfect distraction from the scandal over the murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi – and the American government’s embarrassingly weak response.
Is it legal and what could happen next?
A HHS spokeswoman told the New York Times that the changes to the law would be legal because of a 2016 decision by Texas judge Reed O’Connor, who determined that there was no protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
But ACLU attorney Joshua Block believes this could end up before the Supreme Court – and he’s hopeful that Constitutional protections would ultimately protect transgender Americans.
Could it happen in the UK?
In the UK, transgender people have legal protections under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010.
The UK government has also consulted on plans to amend the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for transgender and gender non-binary people to change their gender.
However, transgender and gender non-binary people still face tremendous abuse, discrimination and levels of violence in the UK.
How can I help?