Two Weeks Before Midterms, Transgender People Feel Like ‘Pawns’

From The New York Times:

By Liam Stack
Oct. 23, 2018

When the news broke on Sunday morning, many transgender people, world-weary, saw it as grimly predictable: With two weeks to go until the midterm elections, the Trump administration was considering a new move that would undermine federal civil rights protections for the transgender community. This time, they thought, it was the nuclear option.

Under the terms of a proposal reported by The New York Times on Sunday, the administration would adopt a narrow definition of gender as an unchangeable biological condition — either male or female — that is determined by genitalia at birth. Such a move would not only roll back protections for transgender people: It could also legally negate their very existence.

“The thing that really took the wind out of my sails and is deeply upsetting, particularly as someone who teaches ethics, is what this ultimately says about the American people,” said Gabrielle Bychowski, a college professor and married mother of two in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“This is a very evidently political move done, approaching the midterms, to garner favor with a portion of the American public who would be encouraged and pleased by this news,” Ms. Bychowski, 31, said. “It’s a reminder that pain is a political tool. A certain portion of the American population takes pleasure at the pain of others.”

The midterm elections on Nov. 6 are a critical test for the Republican Party, which is defending slim majorities in the House and the Senate. It has sought to lessen the weight of President Trump’s low approval ratings and beat back the enthusiasm of the Democratic base by framing the election as a referendum on immigration, crime and unruly leftist mobs. Many transgender people feel similarly in the cross hairs.

“Transgender people are frequently used as political pawns; they say we’re monsters and we go into bathrooms and commit crimes and whatever else,” said Bryce Celotto, 26, a middle-school teacher and Army National Guard veteran in Oakland, Calif. “It’s just like with immigrants or other marginalized communities: It is easy to throw us under the bus as a scare tactic.”

The Department of Health and Human Services is leading the effort to establish a new definition of gender under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans discrimination on the basis of gender in federally funded education programs. If enacted, the proposal would turn to genetic testing to resolve any dispute about a person’s gender.

The department has called on other parts of the federal government — including the Departments of Education, Justice and Labor — to adopt the new definition, a measure of government uniformity that would make the courts more likely to recognize it as well. The health agency is planning to formally present the change to the Justice Department by the end of the year, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

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