Government must respect, uphold rights of transgender individuals

Sohini Ashoke, News Editor

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On Oct. 21, 2018, the Trump administration issued a memo stating that it is considering defining gender as a biological, unchangeable condition determined by genitalia at birth. This follows several other moves by the administration that sought to restrict the rights of transgender (trans) individuals. In February 2017, for example, Trump signed a directive that instructed the Departments of Justice and Education to remove protections that allowed trans students to use bathrooms correlating with their gender identity. Since that day, dozens of federal protections for trans people have been abolished or attacked. Earlier this year, Trump ordered that trans individuals be banned from serving in the military. As of June 2018, there were no federal anti-discrimination laws on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Given this trend, more protections are likely to be removed. This constant, blatant disrespect for the safety and identity of trans people demonstrated by the actions of the Trump administration is wholly unacceptable. The United States (U.S.) government should instead recognize the validity of the existence of trans people and add federal protections for trans Americans.

Many Americans do not support transgender rights due to the common misconception that gender cannot be malleable or that being transgender is one’s personal choice and that it is a mental illness. All of these assumptions, however, could not be further from the truth: a trans person is simply an individual whose biological sex at birth and gender identity are different. While many people believe that gender identity is directly correlated with sex and cannot be changed, there have been numerous scientific studies proving otherwise. A study published in Nature showed that trans people’s brains operated more similarly to their gender identity than their biological sex. According to the World Health Organization, being transgender is not a mental illness, and not all trans people necessarily suffer from gender dysphoria, which is defined as serious stress and anxiety resulting from conflict between one’s sex and one’s gender identity. Given the overwhelming scientific evidence that transgenderism is real and valid, there is no reason for the U.S. government to not support the rights of trans people.

The government’s refusal to acknowledge the validity of transgenderism also means that many logistical parts of daily life for trans people are challenging. For example, government identification methods only recognize sex, and in many states gender identity is not recognized for bathroom access.

As a result of such misconceptions and prejudices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation  reported that anti-transgender violence spiked up 17 percent between 2016 and 2017. According to a survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in four trans people has been assaulted because of their gender identity. These statistics are emblematic of a trend showing how transphobia is unfortunately still prevalent in the U.S., and indicate that trans people still need protection from the government, whether it be through anti-hate crime legislation or through granting them the basic human right of using whichever bathroom they prefer regardless of their assigned gender at birth. It is the government’s job to protect its people, so why are they taking away protections from one of the most at-risk groups in our country?

Currently, the status of transgender rights varies drastically across the country, as 32 states have no anti-discrimination laws on the basis of gender identity. The government should re-establish the protections that were removed under this administration, as well as implement federal protections for trans people regarding healthcare, housing access and workplace discrimination. Seeing as discrimination based on race, sex and socio-economic status are illegal under federal law, gender identity should be not the exception; it should not determine the outcome of someone’s life or the opportunities and rights they have.

Politics aside, protections and rights for trans people should not be something up for debate. This is not an issue of whether our country believes in being transgender or not—this is an issue of giving a marginalized group of people their basic human rights. Even if people don’t believe in or understand what it’s like to be transgender, the right of trans people to have their existence respected and to not have to fear hate crimes should be a non-partisan issue. The issue of transgender rights is not one that should be in political debates and should not differ among parties—these human rights should be recognized by everyone. Whether liberal or conservative, we as Americans need to come together to demand that our administration re-implement these protections and recognize that transgender rights are human rights.