We can’t define transgender people out of existence — and we shouldn’t want to

From The Daily Orange:  http://dailyorange.com/2018/11/cant-define-transgender-people-existence-shouldnt-want/

By Michael Sessa
Nov. 5, 2018

A now widely circulated and highly controversial memo from President Donald Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human services has proposed establishing a legal definition of gender as “male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” The move, a rebuke to a series of decisions by former President Barack Obama’s administration to loosen the concept of gender in federal programs, is as impractical as it is prejudicial.

Despite efforts to try, transgender Americans cannot be defined out of existence — nor should they be. In response to the memo, more than 40 students rallied on Syracuse University’s Quad on Wednesday to protest the federal proposal.

“Think about how we medicalize gender identity, reify gender dysphoria, and in the process delegitimize genders that involve far more than biology,” said Amery Sanders, a sophomore international relations major. “Think about how every time we say ‘being trans is not a mental illness,’ we reinforce the idea that being mentally ill makes you less of a valid person.”

Constrictive medical definitions of gender can just perpetuate stigmatization.

Scientifically, that narrow view of gender doesn’t even make sense. The American Psychological Association, the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States, draws clear distinctions between sex and gender.

If the Trump administration’s standards were to be enacted, the federal government wouldn’t recognize nearly 1.4 million transgender Americans, according to The New York Times.

It’d simply be invalidating.

It’d open the floodgates of intense harassment and discrimination of an already targeted community. The FBI’s 2016 hate crime statistics showed a five percent increase in reported hate crime incidents from 2015.

The Trump administration’s efforts to squash the validity of gender identity isn’t just an abstract concept. It affects real people and real lives.

Though acknowledging the complexities of gender may be inconvenient for the government, we shouldn’t sort people into rigidly defined boxes. Hurdles like comfortability aren’t legitimate defenses against people’s humanity.

We, along with those in government, must recognize that the science of gender is complicated and evolving. We must also recognize that our actions — the words and the memos we write — have real repercussions on the way Americans treat their transgender counterparts.

We have to stand up to those who think they can challenge the reality of transgender people without thinking about the consequences of their objections. But we can also take solace, too, in the realization that no definition can erase people.

“There are some people in this world, in this government, who call us monsters, who think of our bodies and minds as freaks of nature,” Sanders said. “And I want to make all of them remember that monsters have teeth. And we run in packs. And we dig our dens deep. They can hunt us, root us out, take and take and take from us. They can take our skins, but they cannot take our souls.”