Someone you know is transgender. They deserve to be treated like a human.
Look. My job here is normally to pick apart public statements by people, to show you how things can be written better. I try not to get into taking political positions. But I am making an exception today. If this bothers you, please skip today’s post.
If you’re still here, let’s take a look at what is happening in the Trump administration with regards to transgender people, according to The New York Times:
‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law. . . .
Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.
The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.
“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.
The move would be the most significant of a series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity. The Trump administration has sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military and has legally challenged civil rights protections for the group embedded in the nation’s health care law.
Several agencies have withdrawn Obama-era policies that recognized gender identity in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The administration even tried to remove questions about gender identity from a 2020 census survey and a national survey of elderly citizens.
For the last year, the Department of Health and Human Services has privately argued that the term “sex” was never meant to include gender identity or even homosexuality, and that the lack of clarity allowed the Obama administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.
Is the headline incendiary or accurate?
I think it’s accurate. If you are defining gender identity solely through what parts you were born with or what your chromosomes say, then the idea of a person who is transgender doesn’t make sense. They don’t exist.
Basically, there are three positions that a government can take.
- You can admit that transgender people — people whose gender identity differs from what they were assigned at birth — exist and have rights. If you take this position, you need to make changes in laws to preserve those rights.
- You can agree that there are transgender people, but deny them civil rights protections. This was where the Trump administration was before this news broke.
- Or you can just decide that being transgender is a choice, an opinion, and for that reason, it does not deserve any protections. This is far simpler than just denying these people rights, but it is heartless.
What do you think?
I have a clear opinion on this issue since I am very close to several transgender people. Here’s what I can tell you from real and personal experience.
Transgender people suffer. They feel profoundly out of place already. Their problem is not a “choice” to be transgender. Their choice is between hiding their fundamental feelings about who they are, or revealing and acting on those feelings and suffering constant and profound mistreatment and prejudice throughout their lives.
Some transgender people choose to do everything possible to adapt themselves, their bodies, and their appearance to present themselves to the world in a way that conforms with who they feel they are. If you met a trans man like this — a person who identifies as a man — you would never know. The idea that such a man should use the ladies room would seem pretty odd. When a burly, balding guy is walking around with a beard, you really want that guy in the ladies room? And the same applies to trans women.
The trans people I know — some quite well, and some just as acquaintances — are much happier now that they are at peace with who they are. Many were depressed and anxious before. They decided that they’d rather deal with the anger and harassment from ignorant people than with the pain of constantly pretending to be someone they are not. This takes courage.
No matter what their choices, trans people do not have an easy time of it. They are far more likely to attempt suicide.
I’ve heard the arguments about trans women competing with cis women in sports. I’ve heard the story about the trans man that insisted on getting a bikini wax. Frankly, these seem like pretty minor issues compared to the hundreds of thousands of trans people waking up today with more than their usual burden — because the Trump Administration wants to declare them nonexistent.
I don’t personally know any illegal immigrants. I don’t know any Muslims banned from entering the country. I worry about these people, because I am a human and have empathy, but the difference is, with trans people, I know a bunch. And this policy just seems heartless and cruel and is hurting people I personally care about.
You can’t put the genie back in the bottle
I’ve seen this movie before.
There was a time when gay people had to hide who they were and who they loved.
Then that began to shift. It took decades. I was present at City Hall in San Francisco when the first gay people got married. I saw hundreds of people waiting in line — bikers, guys in tuxes and women in wedding dresses, and men and women and their kids, people who looked just like me, just hoping to get married to the people they loved. People I loved, who loved each other, got married that day.
What began to happen was that gay people — married gay couples — became visible that day. This made a lot of people uncomfortable. But it also made a lot of gay people recognize that they could be gay and be a solid and essential part of the fabric of America.
Now, regardless of what other people might think, gay people and their relationships and their marriages and their lives are visible and valid. This is essential to the mental health and well being of millions and millions of adolescents. And regardless of what the fearmongers were saying, no one is marrying in threesomes or marrying their pets.
People tried to define gay people out of existence, describe them as deviants, make them hide in the shadows. We don’t do that any more, at least in most of America. I love Seth Stevens-Davidowitz’ research that shows through Google search data that there are just as many gay people in parts of America where they’re not visible. They exist. It’s just a question of whether we allow them to be visible, and thankfully, for the most part, we have.
This is no time for the government to deny their existence. Really, they’re not out to get you. They don’t want to change you or your children. They just want to be who they are.