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By Karen Wang
According to The New York Times, members of the Trump administration are considering re-defining sex as a “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” The move is in direct contrast to an Obama-era policy of loosely defining sex to also encompass an individual’s personal identity, not determined by sex designation at birth.
The new definition of sex would have the greatest effect on discrimination legislation such as Title IX, which prohibits educational discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. In the past, courts and government officials have used sex discrimination to refer to discrimination based on an individual’s sex and an individual’s failure to conform to sex stereotypes, thus including anti-transgender discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination in the definition of discrimination on the basis of sex.
According to CNN, the proposed definition of sex echoes former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s October 2017 memo on Title XII, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status,” Sessions wrote.
The move was prompted by a Department of Health and Human Services memo that called for key government agencies to adopt a strict, explicit, and uniform definition of gender and sex that is “grounded in science, objective and administrable.” According to CNN, the memo went on to state that birth certificates would constitute as sufficient proof of sex and that an individual’s sex could only be changed with the support of “reliable genetic evidence.”
If implemented, advocate groups worry the new definition of sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth” would effectively erase all federal recognition of transgender Americans. There are an estimated 1.4 million Americans who identify with a gender other than the one they were born into currently.
Under Title IX, redefining sex as a solely biological condition could have immediate impacts on public schools around the country, affecting locker rooms, sports, bathrooms, single-sex classes and programs, and a multitude of other activities.
This is the latest action in a series of attempts by the Trump administration to roll back protections against discrimination of transgender Americans.
In 2017, President Trump banned transgender individuals from serving in the military, citing medical costs as the main reason behind the directive. Additionally, the Department of Education reversed an Obama-era stance that allowed transgender public school students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, instead referring to bathroom regulations as a “state level” policy.
A federal judge later ruled that the military must accept transgender recruits, and in March 2018, the administration attempted to reinstate the ban, with limited exceptions. The move was also blocked by a federal court. As of January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court has decided to allow the Trump administration to continue upholding the ban as cases challenging the ban work their way up to higher courts.
The Trump administration has been widely criticized and denounced by LGBT+ advocates and activists for enabling and promoting discrimination against sexual minorities. Administration officials have cited religious and personal beliefs as reasons for rolling back discrimination protections and regulations.
Image courtesy of out.com