A recent memo by the Health and Human Services Department to other federal agencies in the Trump administration called for adopting a narrow definition of gender that would effectively roll back many legal protections granted to transgender people during the Obama administration.
HHS called on government agencies to adopt a definition of gender that used “a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The department said that gender should be defined as simply male or female from birth and be considered immutable, according to a New York Times report.
“The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence,” the memo proposed. Such a definition would sweep away a series of administrative definitions by the Obama administration that extended protected status to transgender people at schools, prisons, and other federally funded institutions.
The proposed change involves rewriting Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination. The Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Labor all enforce sections of the law.
An estimated 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender, including both people who have had surgical procedures and those who haven’t. “At every step where the administration has had the choice, they’ve opted to turn their back on transgender people,” Sarah Weblow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, told the Times.
The proposed change could directly impact proposed rules by the Education Department regarding sex discrimination at schools and colleges and one by HHS involving eligibility for federal funds or subsidies. Both proposed rules are expected to be officially opened for public comment this fall.