Like many trans people and allies, I was horrified to hear that the Department of Human Health Service is proposing new guidelines for determining gender in the United States. While the DHHS refuses to acknowledge its intention to ban transgender people from federal protection under Title IX, its proposal to establish a concrete definition of sex will nevertheless retrograde the trans community to those days of seeking black market synthetic hormones and sex work in exchange for money to cover trans-related medical procedures.
As quoted in the NY Times article:
“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.” (Green, Erica L., et al.)
Over the past few years years, transgender people and undocumented immigrants have become the center bargaining chip between leftist and conservative politicians in this country. We are a hotly debated topic, sitting awkwardly at the crossroads of a cultural, political and economic war, a large-scale national debate between Americans of varying backgrounds and ideologies, from evangelicals to radical feminists. Depending on who you talk to, trans rights can either mean a better, more forward-thinking world where gender is no longer a rigid determining factor of one's own destiny or a godless, dystopian nightmare with little blonde pig-tailed girls in perpetual danger of rape. Having talked to several of my trans friends, I can confidently assure any inquiring party that most of us just want to lead normal lives – work and make enough money to meet our basic needs and have some funds left over for Netflix and the occasional Amazon splurge. None of us really have the desire to be the topic of headlines on 24-hour cable news networks or have our lives subjected to heated disputes between millions of Americans nationwide. Fortunately, it seems that the average American is beginning to understand that.
Even as African American and black and brown Latina trans women continue to be murdered at astounding rates, the trans community is gaining some leverage with the support of such individual American and international organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, World Professional Association for Transgender Health, United Nations and more – and the list keeps growing, despite ongoing pressure from the White House. Yet, here we are, about to have it all taken away from us. Even something as trivial as the right to use public restrooms safely – without fear of arrest or harassment or physical harm – will become a far-reaching unattainability if this new proposal is passed.
It may seem hopeless but we are not a people that easily give up hope – not without a fight. The pendulum swings our way and it's now done so for years. The DHHS is not creating a “concrete definition of sex,” but rather an arbitrary one that can easily be discredited by doctors, psychologists, biologists and geneticists – argued into obliteration and permanently put to rest by the people qualified to do so. Amid the high murder and low-unemployment rates, there is a society that is slowly acknowledging and validating our lives. We now have a firmer grasp of genetics, we understand the nature of biology, we know other animals can also change their sex. We have evidence of transgender people living successful, productive lives when protected from discrimination and violence, of children wanting to change their gender from a very early age and of the tragic consequences of people who aren't allowed to change their gender. We see more representation of us in the media. Katie Couric is on our side and the Times declares our movement is at a “tipping point.” In other words, we can fight this!
The right's biggest weapon against the left is its successful use of “gaslighting” – manipulating us to the point where we question ourselves, our very own sanity. The right wants us to feel that we're at the brink of Nazi Germany, they want us feel hopeless and weak – this makes it easier for them to pull the rug from right underneath us. I think this is the main reason why hate groups tend to gather en masse in such progressive cities as Portland, OR and Berkeley, CA. The right knows they'll attract a large group of counter-protesters in these cities, they know it might get ugly and they want as much news coverage of it as possible. They want to discredit the left, to tell the world, "Look at how much these liberals hate free speech!" They want an even playing field, where an illegitimate ideology can gain some level of respectability and duke it out with the “angry leftist liberals.” The ploy so often works and Antifa and Black Lives Matter are labeled as “angry,” “hateful,” and “racist” by politically moderate friends and family, while reactionary hate groups, such as the alt-right and Proud Boys continue to distract us all from an administration inconspicuously aligning itself with white nationalist and fascist ideals. We won't let them win.
Unfortunately, resisting the attacks of the right will take a little more than wearing vagina hats and standing outside the Supreme Court yelling, “Resist.” It's going to take a little elbow grease too. It may take active canvassing, it may take holding the media accountable for fair and accurate coverage of trans people. Most importantly, it will take your vote. Voting candidates into office with strong ties to the LGBT community can help secure a win for Queer people. Be sure to look up every candidate's policy on transgender-related issues – even those you may believe align themselves with the democratic party and LGBT issues. Together, we can beat this and forge a world where Queers are allowed to exist freely and safely.
Green, Erica L., et al. “Trump Administration Eyes Defining Transgender Out of Existence.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Oct. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/10/21/us/politics/transgender-trump-administration-sex-definition.html.