There is reason to be concerned Canada’s conservatives could look to the south to find a convenient social issue to run on.
by Abigail Curlew
Oct 23 2018
Over the weekend, news broke that the Trump administration was considering imposing a new legislative definition of gender that would effectively erase the legal existence of transgender people. As reported by the New York Times, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is attempting to impose a universal definition of gender that is based in biology and “grounded in science, [that is] objective and administrable.” Of course the use of the word science here is rhetorical, as the biology around sex and gender is far more complicated than a simple gender binary defined by sex organs. Under the proposed legislation, the only way to contest the government’s assertion of your legal gender identity will be through genetic testing.
The push for this legislation is being led by Roger Severino, the head of the HHS Civil Rights Office under the Trump administration, who circulated a memo on the subject around his department. Severino was a controversial appointment to the Civil Rights Office as he’s been notorious for being an advocate for anti-LGBTQ policies that actively seek to make life difficult for queer folks. He once penned an opinion piece where he eschewed legislation that adds “gender identity” to human rights protections, warning that “the radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.”
From this view, the extension of human rights to transgender citizens comes at the expense of the rights of “normal” folks and jeopardizes public safety because it allows “men in dresses” to use the woman’s washroom. Such views are a gross distortion of the truth, as research demonstrates that transgender citizens face increased risk of violence and discrimination and are grossly in need of free speech protections.
For many, there are few times where you have to be concerned about your legal identity. Save for the occasional disruption of renewing a driver’s license or passport, most people can fluidly navigate public spaces and have access to services. At most, you might present proof of your identification several times a day, from using a bank card to pay for your groceries, to getting carded when buying alcohol.
However, for transgender folks, the experience of navigating the public is rife with precarity. There is an abundance of trans citizens who, for various reasons, may not have the opportunity to change their legal identity—and appearing differently than what appears on your photo ID can lead to countless unpleasant and vulnerable experiences.
Every time we present our legal identities in a transphobic and cisgender supremacist society, we risk outing ourselves to someone who might actively discriminate against us.