When the government attempts to end the recognition of an entire population of people, what comes to your mind first? Do you think of “1984”? Do you think of the unpeople in the classic novel; people who were very much alive but remained unrecognized by the government? It’s kind of scary how a plot point in an absolutely terrifying dystopian novel is being completely paralleled in real life. It makes a concerned citizen wonder, “Where do my government’s morals lie?”
Within the past week, a highly controversial adjustment to Title IX, which will change the definition of sex under federal law to “either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with” according to the New York Times, has been floating around the Department of Health and Human Services. For those who don’t know, Title IX is a civil rights law which bans gender discrimination in government funded programs. The Trump administration’s move to disregard transgender and other gender diverse people will leave this entire population of American people without any legal recognition from the federal government. The memo released to the New York Times read that sex (or gender, as they were regarded as the same in memo) would be determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” Effectively, the memo would revoke recognition of transgender people.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the government when the notion to take away people’s civil rights does so much as cross the mind of someone in power. And why would it? Why would a government want to legalize discrimination?
The fact is, transgender people already face a plethora of challenges and disrespect even with the current laws recognize them and their gender. As a cisgender woman (cisgender being the term for those whose gender correlates with the one assigned to them at birth), I personally cannot speak to the difficulties that transgender and gender diverse people face everyday. However, if simply observing the actions of people around you isn’t enough to understand societal transphobia at its finest, fear not, statistics to the rescue! According to the Trans Student Educational Resources website, more than 80% of trans students feel unsafe in their school due to their gender expression, while nearly 60% experience verbal harassment, in comparison to the 29% that their cisgender peers encounter. This discrimination obviously reaches much further than solely students, and will follow transgender people throughout their lives. While children are susceptible to offensive treatment from their peers, peers parents, teachers, and their own families, adults face the struggles of finding work, housing, and healthcare that will treat them as equals to cisgender people. To bring the discrimination closer to home, the National Center for Transgender Equality found that in Massachusetts in 2012, 76% of transgender people faced discrimination and harassment on the job, and 39% were refused work. One in eight have been evicted from their homes due to their gender expression, with one in five experiencing homelessness for the same reason. Meanwhile, 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide, and at least 50% of transgender people have been raped or assaulted by their partners. Keep in mind that these are just statistics based off those brave enough to come forward. These statistics are likely to be an underrepresentation of discrimination faced by trans and gender diverse people.
Everything you just read, all the troubles faced by trans and gender diverse people, are pre- updated Title IX. These are the struggles dealt with on a daily basis by people whose civil rights on the basis of gender are legally protected by the federal government. When the government decides that their citizens civil rights are not worth protecting, what comes next? Who are the 1.4 million transgender people (as of 2016) to turn to when they need to be taken care of? And why does this not matter to the Trump administration? When it comes down to it, our duty as citizens is to protect the human rights of each other. So I pose to every last one of you, what will you do to uphold your countries values of liberty and justice for all?
By Maeve Cawley