Trump administration moves to redefine gender

Transgender community faces risk of being ‘defined out of existence’

More stories from Madeline Furstenberg

The Tator
December 12, 2018

Photo by Can Stock Photo

After President Trump spoke out against the transgender community, trans people are in danger of erasure.

I don’t like the definition of ignorant, so I think I’ll just change it.

If only it were that simple. But “ignorance” is not open to interpretation or subjectivity. Neither is the term “gender,” but the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t seem to agree.

In an article written by The New York Times, it was announced on Oct. 21 that the DHHS is moving to redefine gender as “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” Sounds a lot like the definition of sex, doesn’t it?

“So why is this a problem?” some people might ask. Well, I’ll tell you: Google Dictionary defines gender as being “the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).” In other words, gender is a social construct, sex is based on biology.

“The (DHHS’) proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable and determined by the genitals that a person is born with,” the Times article stated.

According to the same article, the redefining of gender will “essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.”

The proposed changes to the legal definition of gender by the DHHS are intended to clarify rules and restrictions under Title IX, according to the Times article. Any disputes about gender should be clarified through genetic testing, said the DHHS. According to a Huffington Post article, redefining gender in this context would “effectively exclude transgender and nonbinary people from basic civil rights protections currently guaranteed by federal law.”

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” Catherine Lhamon former leader of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights under the Obama administration said to the Times.

According to Huffington Post, hundreds of people gathered in New York City to protest the DHHS’s proposed changes in response to the Times article. Different LGBTQ support organizations, like the National Center for Transgender Equality, responded “with force” to the proposed idea, according to Huffington Post. On social media, about 2,000 people responded to the news by posting the hashtag, #WontBeErased.

Aside from the problematic implications of redefining gender for an entire community of people, I have to ask myself another question: Who gets to define words? Are all words subject to change? Can we make them whatever we want them to be?

Does the Trump administration truly believe that this is necessary, or is this change simply aimed towards erasing an entire culture from our vocabulary? If the latter is truly the case, then I am ashamed of the people we’ve elected into federal office. Why can’t we simply let people be who they want to be? If something is not directly hurting you, then you have no right to speak out against it.

The controversial and problematic decisions being made by the Trump administration say a lot about the political climate in the United States, but the responses to these decisions made by the public are what truly define the social values of the American people. We believe in the right to be our true, free selves and no one should have the right to take that away from us.

Fuerstenberg can be reached at [email protected].