Trump Administration Appealing To Narrow Definition Of Gender

Geraldine Edwards
October 24, 2018

The New York Times reports Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health & Human Services, didn't respond to questions on the proposal, although other officials at HHS confirmed a push to limit the reading of civil rights laws to exclude transgender discrimination.

Sex would be defined by a person's birth certificate, with any disputes settled with DNA testing.

Advocacy groups organised a demonstration on Sunday evening in NY and another protest is planned outside the White House in Washington DC on Monday Morning. If "gender" refers to biological sex, there are only two genders, and, very rarely, intersex people.

That definition would be as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals a person is born with, the Times reported.

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Ruling on a challenge to one aspect of the Affordable Care Act, US District Judge Reed O'Connor in Texas found in 2016 that there was no protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Dr Joshua Safer, executive director of Mount Sinai Hospital's Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, said the Trump administration's definition is "not consistent with current western medicine or science in terms of how we actually operate or define sex of individuals".

Although the HHS branded the New York Times report "misleading", Trump struck a different tone when he was asked about the issue by reporters while boarding Marine One at the White House on Monday (October 22).

It is the latest effort by US President Donald Trump's administration to chip away at protections for the LGBT community. "Purposely ignoring this body of evidence is indefensible and certain to add to the stress and discrimination already experienced by transgender people". It would specify that sex is "immutable", thereby effectively removing any legal recognition for transgender individuals.

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"The idea that the federal government could be taking another swipe at transgender people is just deeply scary to a lot of people", said Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois. The agencies would consider the comments before issuing final rules with the force of law - both of which could include the new gender definition.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the proposals "hateful and hurtful policies" and wrote in a tweet that if the administration moves forward with such plans, "we'll see them in the courts and in the streets".

Though it's still unclear how the policy would work, experts say it could affect the kind of medical treatment transgender people could receive under Medicaid, which prisons transgender inmates might be assigned to or what school bathrooms they could use.

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