By Solomon Smith, Political News Editor
Alarmed members of the LGBTQ community are pointing to a memo from within the Health and Human Services Department that could potentially strip trans-citizens of their civil rights protections.
An internal memo in the Health and Human Services Department leaked to the New York Times shows President Donald Trump’s administration has begun to attack laws protecting the rights of trans-citizens.
The new Title IX interpretation, in a memo released in an article by the Times, shows the Trump administration has plans for narrowing the definitions of gender. The memo attempts to create a uniform definition of the sexes, one which is narrow in scope and excludes the trans-gender community by using a “biological basis that is clear, grounded in science.”
This definition yields little space for anyone who uses a non-binary descriptor for their sexual orientation, particularly transgendered students who are genetically of a different sex than the one they identify with. This will have a wide-ranging effect on the way laws designed to protect against sexual discrimination will be interpreted for the LGBTQ community. This notice reverses policies that former President Barack Obama had put into place, which created more room for a broader interpretation of gender, aligning the government’s policies with a more modern American view.
“We are the first administration to make it clear that sexual assault is not just a crime, it can be a violation of a woman’s civil rights,” said then Vice President Joe Biden.
Title IX was instituted so female students were offered equal access to sports programs and protection from sexual assault on campuses, but enfolding the LGBTQ community has been a slow process as American attitudes change. This policy notice not only indicates a reversal of progress for transgender individuals, but a break from a prominent campaign promise made by Trump back in 2016 at the Republican National Convention.
“I will do everything in my power to protect the transgender community,” said Trump.
The memo is not, however, unusual for this administration. In July 2016, he revoked a policy placed by the Obama administration which allowed trans-citizens to serve in the military, starting with announcements on Twitter.
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” wrote Trump.
This policy was widely panned by leaders in the military and the public. The president cited the rising cost of medical treatment for trans-soldiers, even though several studies show the costs to make up a minuscule portion of the military budget. The population is also very small comparatively, between 1,320 and 6,630, of these 1.3 million service members, according to an article in CNN.
As of this printing, the memo and its directions have yet to be enforced, but many students in the LGBTQ community are still very concerned. In an article from VOX, James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, says it plainly.
“He campaigned saying that he would be a good friend to LGBT people,” said Esseks. “Actions speak far louder than words. And what he’s done has been a wreck.”