Trump Unpersons Transgender Folks
Just in time to whip up culture war fervor among rightwing voters, the Trump administration is looking at a little change in administrative rules to define transgender people right out of existence, the New York Times reported yesterday. After all, if "sex" is defined very narrowly to mean only male or female, as written on a birth certificate, then there's no way any trans people could ever be discriminated against, you see, because there'll be no need to recognize their existence at all. Heck, it's only the civil rights of about 1.4 million Americans, and there are a lot more fundagelical voters than than, so that's just how rights work these days.
The proposal, which is still in draft form, comes from a Department of Health and Human Services memo obtained by the Times, and seeks to assuage rightwing fears that Barack Obama's administration was allowing too much freedom from discrimination for people God wants to be discriminated against. Those monsters in the Obama administration said that federal laws barring discrimination on sex applied to transgender people, so HHS would like to please just redefine "sex" so there's no way trans people can be protected.
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.
Yeah, so NOW they're going to appeal to "science" -- as narrowly as possible, of course. May not believe in science when it comes to pesticides or industrial wastes that poison us, or the fate of all the life on the planet, but if it's useful to keep those people in their place, well then, bring on the eighth-grade biology textbook from 1960 (but throw out any science that challenges a simple binary definition of gender, because it is of the Devil, and therefore not science).
"Sex means a person's status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth," the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. "The sex listed on a person's birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person's sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence."
There's a certain evil beauty in the circularity of that "unless," isn't there? You wanna question that initial category? Fine. From now on we'll only consider chromosomes, and only those with exceptions to XX or XY will be allowed to question their birth certificates, and even then must still fall into either "male" or "female," because science is only valid when it supports a predetermined "norm," gotcha!
Not surprisingly, this shit is not going over well among people who are not committed to erasing every bit of progress since Stonewall -- or the last decade, for that matter.
"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.
Why, yes, that is precisely the point. It's why Trump decided to ignore the actual advice of the Pentagon and ban transgender people from the military, saying on Twitter he was acting on the advice of "my generals." HHS is now working to enshrine bigotry as law, because through the federal rule-making process, it can. HHS's director of the Office for Civil Rights, Roger Severino, is an alumnus of the "DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society" at the Heritage Society, and has long opposed the "radical gender ideology" of the Obama moves to say trans people had any rights which the straight white cisgender man must respect.
Yes, of course, before becoming Trump's Chosen Shithead for "civil rights" at HHS, Severino also wrote an opinion piece explaining that treating trans people as if they had "rights" was actually harming everyone else in America!!!! That's just obvious, because Obama's directives saying trans kids should be allowed to use the toilet they're comfortable using was the
culmination of a series of unilateral, and frequently lawless, administration attempts to impose a new definition of what it means to be a man or a woman on the entire nation.
Under Trump, thank goodness, we can look forward to more objective, scientific standards like that. And yes, once implemented, the new definition of "sex" will apply well beyond just HHS, because Title IX has very broad reach in federal regulations:
The Department of Health and Human Services has called on the "Big Four" agencies that enforce some part of Title IX — the Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor — to adopt its definition in regulations that will establish uniformity in the government and increase the likelihood that courts will accept it.
The definition is integral to two proposed rules currently under review at the White House: One from the Education Department deals with complaints of sex discrimination at schools and colleges receiving federal financial assistance; the other, from health and human services, deals with health programs and activities that receive federal funds or subsidies.
This is yet another reminder that even though Team Trump is a big sticky wad of chaos and incompetence at the top, the bastards have insinuated themselves into some parts of the government quite effectively. Where the machinery of governing can be used to make life hell for those they really hate (queers, minorities, the poor, and immigrants especially), evil people have found exactly the right levers to pull. They are doing everything they can to become the dreaded "deep state," for Jebus.
Also, remember how for five minutes in 2016 Trump was the "friend" of the LGBT community, though he always read "LGBT" as if looking at a menu in a foreign language? And even today, he promises not to throw gay people off a roof. At least not in hte name of Islam -- you can take that to the bank.
Needless to say, human rights groups will fight this. Since the new definition will have to go through the federal rule-making process, once those rules are actually published, they'll be subject to a public comment period, and that will obviously be a focus of huge public input -- which may well be ignored. And the regulation can be taken on by a new president and Congress, which unfortunately will take time, although electing a Democratic House (and Senate, can we dream?) can at least help put the brakes on. Hearings, hearings, hearings!
The scary thing, though, is the prospect of challenging this in the courts, which are being loaded with federal judges hand-picked by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. And once any of it gets to our new Post-Reconstruction Supreme Court, the prospects of actually upholding rights for trans people don't look especially bright -- and that's a radical restructuring of government the bastards are trying to bake in for a generation. Resisting Trump is not going to be a one- or two-election job. Future Americans may well look at this regulation as a horror on par with the Dred Scott decision or George Wallace proclaiming "Segregation forever!" -- but only if we fight like hell.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.