On October 21, The New York Times published a report detailing a memo obtained from the Trump administration, who declared their potential decision to propose a definition of gender in strictly biological terms. The memo equated one’s sex assigned at birth with gender in any and all legal circumstances at the federal level.
This consideration strikes a huge blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to legally define gender by an individual’s personal identity rather than biological criteria. It is a huge step back for transgender rights. This current ruling rolls back the Obama administration’s decision to clarify Title IX, a civil rights law prohibiting the exclusion of any persons on the basis of their sex. This law was also directed by the Obama administration to include transgender students, faculty, and staff in allowing them to use bathrooms according to their gender identity rather than biological sex, according to The Washington Post.
Despite the Obama administration’s previous backing of transgender rights, the transgender community in the U.S. still faces daily persecution, especially by the recent stance the Trump administration has taken. According to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, 77 percent of people who identify outside of the gender binary or are perceived as non-binary experienced some form of harassment or mistreatment because of their gender identity.
The news of this potential policy change comes only a few days before Andover’s thirtieth annual Gender–Sexuality Alliance (G.S.A.) Weekend, when Andover students will celebrate and reflect on sexual and gender identity on campus. G.S.A. Weekend has always been a moment of pride and support for the LGBTQIA+ community at Andover, and the threat against the rights of transgender people has cast a shadow over the celebrations. The Trump administration’s statement both targets members of the Andover community and its values of empathy and inclusion.
Despite the intent of the message, the hatred thinly disguised by biological rhetoric will not change anyone’s gender identity. Transgender stories will continue to live on and will not be silenced by invalidation from the government. Although relying on the gender binary might offer a legislative simplicity, it federally denounces and disregards the very notion of the gender identity spectrum.
Regardless of this legal statement issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, we hope that the members of the Andover community will continue to support and love each other, and accept everyone for their unique identities and backgrounds. Andover is a community thoroughly and perpetually committed to diversity, and no announcement or any administration will change that commitment. In the face of these alarming news headlines and government-issued statements, the Andover community must recommit to its values of Non Sibi, compassion, and kindness, and never succumb to the pressures of fear, difference, and hate.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXLI.