Berkeley community outraged by Trump administration’s rollback on transgender rights

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Updated 10/29/19: Some of the language in this article has been updated. 

President Donald Trump’s administration is considering defining gender as a biological condition determined by genitalia at birth — legally omitting the existence of transgender, intersex, nonbinary and gender nonconforming individuals.

According to a memo obtained by The New York Times, the US Department of Health and Human Services is leading an effort to set a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities that receive government financial assistance.

Eric Stanley, an assistant professor in the department of gender and women’s studies, said in an email that the new classification could possibly affect UC Berkeley staff, faculty and students’ ability to have access to gender-affirming health care, name changes, restroom access and other ways that confront institutionalized gender.

“What might seem to be an aberrant attack on trans people, is actually the everyday violence many trans people, especially trans people of color and or low income trans people face,” Stanley said in an email. “Our work then, is to both push back against Trump’s most recent classification, and also work to undo the ways the fiction of the gender binary is operative everywhere.”

In its memo, the Department of Health and Human Services argued that major government agencies need to embrace a fixed definition of gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The proposed definition would define sex as either male or female and would determine it by the genitals a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The New York Times.

ASUC Senator Teddy Lake said in an email that defining sex under Title IX is an “explicit, unarguable attack upon trans students.” Lake added such a narrow definition would conflate sex and gender when the two are often at odds with one another.

“To limit sex to biological externalities is reductive and dangerous,” Lake said in an email. “This change is incredibly invalidating to trans folks and, moreover, robs trans students of their right to legal recourse in the face of discrimination. We must take action to resist this proposed change: we must show up for the trans community, wholeheartedly and unabashedly. ”

The New York Times article states that Obama-era policies have expanded the legal concept of gender in federal programs, but several agencies have withdrawn these policies that recognized gender identity in prisons, schools and homeless shelters.

Campus sophomore Francine Morales said she disapproved the Trump administration’s effort to narrowly define gender since the transgender community is already marginalized to begin with.

“I think it’s definitely upsetting,” Morales said. “I feel like the community that is being directly impacted here at Berkeley already has enough things against them, so for them to have another obstacle thrown over is just upsetting.”


Contact Bella An at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @BellaAn_dc.