Transgender people are the canary in the coal mine
Donald Trump’s administration’s continued attacks on every marginalized group under the sun is a given at this point. I am never shocked by the things this administration does; upset, angry, hurt or afraid maybe, but never shocked. What has come from this administration recently, mainly the memo leaked by The New York Times early in the week, which proposes to “define sex as either male or female, unchangeable and determined by the genitals that a person is born with,” offers the American public a grim look into what the future of this country may hold. While the entire proposal in the memo is upsetting to me, a transgender woman, there is a sentence included in the memo that seems like a canary in this coal mine – a sentence that should be truly upsetting to anyone, whether you are transgender, intersex, just an ally or even none of the above. That is the part of the memo that proposes that only originally issued birth certificates would constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex, correctible only by “reliable genetic testing.” This idea of “reliable genetic testing” to “prove” a person’s sex and gender should be raising red flags for everyone who reads it for a list of reasons.
First, sex and gender is not the same thing. The proposed definition of sex based on the “unchanging” genitals that one is born with is almost laughable, if not for the simple scientific fact that genitals are not “unchanging.” No matter how you feel about the transgender or intersex communities, the fact of the matter is that genitals can be changed. There are surgeries to do just that, which have been around since at least the 1930s.
Second, sex is not as simple as many have been taught to believe it is, and the idea that everyone is born either 100 percent “male” or 100 percent “female” according to genitals, all the way down to genes, is simply not scientifically accurate. The intersex community has endured a harsh and dangerous history due to the line of thinking that sex is some two-box binary system. Still to this day, many can face invasive and painful surgeries at birth without consent.
But quite possibly the scariest part of the memo is the following:
State mandated genetic testing to prove and/or identify someone as belonging to certain groups has never, and will never be, a good sign of things to come. I have heard many people trying to comfort the trans community by suggesting that this simply is a scare tactic to rile up members of the Republican party before the midterm elections. You know what? I think that those people are partially right. However, that does not make the situation any better. This administration is using the trans community to rile up conservatives for a reason: because they can. Because the trans community and the intersex community are some of the least protected people in the country, and thus make for the easiest targets in this administration. Every statement and proposal that comes from the Trump administration is written off as a scare tactic, and they are, but they are also often put into effect.
The Trump administration has been slowly chipping away at the rights of transgender citizens since their time in office began, but this memo is not just another piece of that transphobia. This is an attempt to completely erase a marginalized group from existence in the United States. The transgender community is just the canary in the United States coal mine, and it’s up to the public to decide whether the canary lives or dies.