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.”

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

  1. edith pilkington Says:

    I didn’t want to clutter up your page so I tried to comment on this, there, but I have trouble with Facebook plugins as I’ve deactivated my Edith Pilkington accounts. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I can’t comment but I’ve got a brand new(not exactly) pair of roller skates and you’ve got a gender identity?

    I guess I’m getting old, rather than better . . . .

    • Suzan Says:

      On the other hand in a world where everyone is free to choose the words to self define, those of us who use the word “transsexual” are also free to self define.

  2. edith pilkington Says:

    It’s taken me a week to get back to this. I was very tired and a little bit irritated when I wrote that.

    You know who I identified with when I was 21? Well, it turned out to be Barbara Rubin. It was that picture of her inside Blonde on Blonde, only I didn’t know it was her or that she had done a film called Christmas on Earth, or that she was even a she. It was her haircut. My spouse’s brother was a queen from San Francisco. He was a hairdresser, too. He’d come back East every six months or every year or so. When. he would come back I would have him cut my hair. He did everyone’s hair. I always got it cut like Babara Rubin. Jimmy used to say the style was called a mohawk, not the Mohawk mohawk, though, just a cut where the hair is an even length all around the head. Jimmy used to wear Mohawk mohawks and got into this bunsen burner colored Zippy the Pnhead look. I don’t know how Jimmy “identified” gender wise but that’s another long story.

    Back to Barbara, it took decades to realize that Barbara’s hair looked the way it did was because it had been growing out after having been shaved while in the asylum so she could have shock treatment. I think Barbara “identified” as female but I haven’t a clue. I think she became Orthodox and started adopting forsaken orphans.

    Today I read an article in the Economist. It was awful, for the most part. It asked many of the same obvious questions I have, however. I was taken by the statistics involving just how many have gotten Gender Recognitions in the U K. It’s only 5,000 out of a homeland population of over 66 million, or about 8 people for every hundred thousand. SRS is not required there or in Ireland where the numbers are about 5 for every hundred thousand. I don’t know how many times less than the Williams Institute figures that represents but I think the differences in count are significant and meaningful.

    I came out of the same era you did, only I was 4 years behind you. I know how important self expression is. I went to Woodstock but I never owned a mink. Call me crazy. What have I got to lose? To everyone else I say, prove you’re not.


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