Transgender Rights Under the Trump Administration

Fiona Irving-Beck, News Editor

In October, it was revealed that the Trump administration is considering pushing a legal definition of gender that would infringe on the rights of transgender people nationwide. The administration wants to define gender as unchangeable and based on one’s biological sex. This directly contradicts science, since experts agree that a person’s gender is not determined by one’s anatomy. Further, this decision would destroy the legal rights of transgender people in the US, as they would no longer be federally recognized. If someone’s gender was questioned, laws would force transgender people to procure DNA testing to determine birth-assigned gender.

While this suggestion may seem shocking, it isn’t the first example of the Trump administration attempting to implement policies that are detrimental to transgender Americans. Despite Trump explicitly saying that he would be an advocate for LGBTQ rights during the presidential campaign, the government has been gradually eroding progress made by the Obama administration. A mere month after being elected, the president sent a letter to federally funded schools, revoking protection of transgender students and the requirements set in place by Obama to allow students the right to use restrooms they identify with. The Trump administration attempted to ban or limit transgender citizens from serving in the military on two separate occasions, though was unsuccessful both times. The Justice Department abolished a rule protecting transgender workers from discrimination in the workplace. Protections for transgender prisoners were removed. Even access to healthcare has been adversely impacted and severely limited.

It is significant that Trump revealed this new anti-transgender plan soon before the midterm election. On numerous occasions, he has utilized a particular strategy to garner votes. He comes up with perceived “threats” that he promises to address and fix. This is the same reason why, right before the midterm elections, he sent the United States military to “protect” the border against a caravan of unarmed men, women, and children hoping to apply for US asylum. By demonizing groups of people, and attempting to turn attention towards them, he plays on the fears of his supporters. If citizens are fearful and feel as though his administration is addressing the source of their discontent, they are more inclined to support him.

Aside from using this policy as an electoral tactic, why target transgender people in particular? At first glance, it seems counterintuitive to limit the rights of people who have no relation to Trump. There is no immediate benefit to imposing binary laws on gender identity. But, for Trump, the rigid gender binary that he wants to preserve allows him to retain power and control. He and his supporters feel threatened by the progressive shift towards non-traditional and fluid gender roles that would undermine the traditional gender hierarchy.

However, the recent election reflects the inevitable change and progress the country continues to make despite Trump. Younger citizens had great voter turnout, greatly improving from the 2016 election. Increasing numbers of LGBTQ candidates are entering elections. Transgender woman Christine Hallquist saw a lot of support in her run for governor of Vermont, although ultimately she didn’t win. Massachusetts kept a policy protecting against gender identity discrimination in public places. The Trump administration recently asked the Supreme Court to rule on the issue of banning transgender people from the military. It seems that the Supreme Court will ultimately make the final decision in this case and determine the outcomes of many of these civil rights issues.