A requiem for the rights we never had
The Trump regime is trying to administrate transgender people out of existence.
The proposal is terrifying, but its rationale makes me laugh. President Trump's Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to define “a person's status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” According to a memo obtained by The New York Times, this definition of sex is supposed to be “clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” But scientists have long known that gender was more complex than a doctor's glance between a newborn's legs.
I asked my undergraduate students if the Trump administration's proposal reflected scientific understandings of gender. They are better informed than the White House because they knew immediately that this definition ignored the existence of intersex people, people with healthy sex characteristics that are different from the norm.
The Trump administration's proposal is nakedly ideological and impossible to administrate. It is rooted in hatred and a desire to see trans people gone.
Trans and intersex people are going nowhere. We are a part of the miraculous complexity of the world. Our bodies, minds and feelings are our own and we deserve the right to define and control them. We are the experts on our own genders.
Of course, what legal protections we have are under attack. President Trump already rolled back the limited legal protections for transgender people that President Obama formalized by interpreting Title IX to cover discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and transgender status.
Successfully organizing against this assault on our civil rights requires trans people to be honest with ourselves. The protections offered transgender people under Title IX were extremely limited. Even when transgender people are protected by anti-discrimination policies, we are still subjected to prejudice with limited options for redress. It is devastating for the White House to signal that it is acceptable to discriminate against us, but we must remember that Title IX protections have never been enough to foster our survival.
Transgender people need food, housing, health care and a livable planet. We need safety from both interpersonal violence and violence at the hands of the police. We need an end to the mass incarceration of our community. We need a stop to racism and ableism. We need love and respect. We need each other.
The members of our community who are the most vulnerable were never protected under Title IX. Black transgender women are still being murdered. Transgender people of color are still being incarcerated. Transgender youth are still becoming homeless. Our activism needs to shift away from vague goals like “visibility” to concrete efforts to support each other and challenge structural violence. In times like these, we need to dream bigger and more audaciously than ever before.