The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the New York Times reported today, calling it the most drastic move yet in a government-wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.
The Department of Health and Human Services is leading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, the Times said, according to an unreleased Trump administration memo it had obtained.
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. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.
The new definition would 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.
“You saw such a massive response because this attack on the trans community is essentially trying to erase the trans community from the face of this country and we’re not going to stand for that,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD, a media advocacy group for LGBTQ people told the Times.
Some companies, like Procter & Gamble, have even featured transgender people prominently in their advertising campaigns, like an ad to focus on the importance of moms in the lives of children features a commercial based on the true story of a transgender woman who adopted a 6-year-old girl. Other companies, like Johnson & Johnson, have long embraced inclusive policies that made it clear they will recruit, embrace and welcome transgender employees.
Conservatives were incensed. Roger Severino, now the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, was among them, calling the Obama administration expansion of sex to include gender identity “radical gender ideology.”
“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 E. Lhamon told the Times. She led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.
But Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ previous decisions on transgender protections give little hope to civil rights advocates. The new wording proposed regarding transgender people seems aligned with the position Session took in an October 2017 memo sent to agencies clarifying that the civil rights law that prohibits job discrimination does not cover “gender identity, per se.”
Image credit: IIP Photo Archive/Flickr
Based in southwest Florida, Amy has written about sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line for over 20 years, specializing in sustainability reporting, policy papers and research reports for multinational clients in pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, ICT, tourism and other sectors. She also writes for Ethical Corporation and is a contributor to Creating a Culture of Integrity: Business Ethics for the 21st Century. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.