Transgender rights face assault from Trump

Transgender+rights+face+assault+from+Trump

Akasha Khalsa

The Trump administration’s latest effort to undo much of the progress on LGBTQ issues advanced during the Obama administration comes in the form of a memo proposing that within the Title IX law, gender should become strictly defined by genitalia and regarded as unchangeable from birth.

This memo, obtained and reported originally by The New York Times, has been greeted by liberal news outlets with outrage, fear of increasing bigotry toward the vulnerable transgender community and concerns that this is an attempt to erase transgender people through a definition.

Media outlets on the right respond with the opinion that this attempt to define gender is entirely reasonable and grounded in objective truth. According to The National Review, gender ought to be clearly understood by the law and thus administrable. In this view, transgender individuals are dismissed as sufferers of gender dysphoria, and are merely confused about their gender
identities.

These opinions reflect the traditional thinking that the words “gender” and “sex” are synonymous and that a person’s sex is purely binary, based on genitalia, hormones and genetics. Many recent advances in our social understanding of gender fundamentally question this stance, accepting greater ambiguity in distinctions between male and female, and leaving room for individuals questioning these definitions for themselves. Our generation feels more empowered in determining how our own identities do or do not fall within these definitions.

It is vital that we look at the conservative notion of sex and gender and address the reactions among those who subscribe to a binary, purely biological understanding of male and female. This conception of gender remains widespread, and it helps no one to dismiss it without discussion as merely objectively wrong and old-fashioned.

In liberal discourse, it is often taken for granted that the words sex, which refers to only the biological characteristics of male and female, and gender, which refers to the identity of a person, are separate terms with entirely different denotations. These definitions, however, are not recognized by those who subscribe to a more traditional view of gender.

The Trump administration’s attempt to define these words in a binary biological context conflicts with the growing scientific recognition that even biological sex is much more complex than a simple binary determination between male and female. It also disregards the growing understanding of gender identity as separate from biological sex and based on personal and
societal ideas of male and female. It must be acknowledged that this attempt at instituting a strict binary definition legitimizes many transgender Americans and puts them at risk of even greater discrimination and violence than they already face.

The level of gender fluidity accepted by much of the younger generation is new to this culture. It redefines ideas that have been central to many institutions and discussions for centuries. It seems vital that even as we focus on protecting ourselves or our transgender friends from discrimination resulting from such narrow definitions, we also acknowledge and engage with the fact that for many people, binary gender is a firmly-rooted lens through which they view reality.

The discussion of the words “gender” and “sex” is a debate over our societal conception of these delineations in language. It is important that, as we move forward in redefining this conception, we acknowledge that this change is threatening to the fundamental understandings of many people. The Trump administration’s memo promoting a narrow, biologically defined definition of the word gender reflects this.

It is continually discouraging and enraging to face off against these narrow views, but it is a necessary part of moving forward. If we wish to reduce the harmful polarization which has proliferated in recent political rhetoric, it falls to us to engage in genuine discourse on this and other topics of contention.

In supporting and legitimizing our transgender peers, and in redefining our societal conceptions of male, female and everything in between or outside those lines, we must fully and compassionately engage with the natural confusion and push-back of those not disposed to agree with this revolutionary ambiguity of gender.