Vox Populi

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Robin Carver: Being a trans person in America was already scary. Now it’s terrifying.

A new federal order wouldn’t just deny civil rights protections to trans people. It would deny we exist altogether.

I’m a trans woman, and I’m terrified.

Already, on any given afternoon, I’m regularly and publicly catcalled, mocked, laughed at, and treated as an object of social disgust. Trans women are one of the most assaulted and murdered demographics in the United States, especially when they’re non-white.

We’re the frequent and favorite target of even liberal-leaning culture outlets like Saturday Night Live. Even Democratic darling Kamala Harris repeatedly fought to deny life-saving medical treatment to incarcerated trans women when she served as California’s attorney general.

Even lesbian, gay, and bisexual advocacy organizations like the Human Rights Campaign took decades to support trans activism.

Worse still, in 29 states we can be legally fired or evicted from our homes simply for being trans. And a recent Department of Health and Human Services policy allows any medical provider to deny trans people care of any kind, even in emergency rooms.

Some small progress came with the Obama administration, which updated guidelines for changing the sex marker on important ID documents. The Obama-era Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and several others began adopting more inclusive terminology that expanded already existing civil rights protections to trans people.

In May of 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch sued North Carolina over its controversial “bathroom bill.” In a speech delivered at that time, Lynch said, with specific reference to the trans community, “This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise. … It may not be easy, but we’ll get there together.”

That promise is gone.

The New York Times reports that the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services is working across multiple agencies to establish an official definition of sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”

The memo continues, “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

This definition goes to absurd lengths to define broad swaths of trans people as explicitly belonging to the sex they were coercively assigned at birth. It flies in the face of the broad consensus of the medical community that treats trans people and worldwide standards for trans health care.

It’s a fundamental denial of our most basic and important claim: that our sex and gender cannot be accurately identified at or before birth, and they are not sufficiently explained by a binary of female/male, woman/man, or XX/XY.

It’s the policy equivalent of telling trans people that we don’t exist. It’s flatly absurd.

This policy, if put into effect, would expose trans children to violence and psychological trauma at school. It would deny trans adults critical access to appropriately gendered homeless shelters, prisons, and restrooms. It would specifically eliminate the basis on which we could make any case for discrimination of any kind at the federal level.

Even worse, Congress has no say over the implementation of this policy. In theory, it could be overturned in the courts, but a conservative majority there is unlikely to support trans rights.

Even when Trump leaves office (whether after 2020 or 2024) the next president would have to undo two to six years of precedent to get us back to where we are now — which they could only do if the right-wing Supreme Court doesn’t strike a blow in the intervening time.

Being a trans person in America was already scary enough. Now it’s downright terrifying.


First published in OtherWords. Included in Vox Populi with permission.


5 comments on “Robin Carver: Being a trans person in America was already scary. Now it’s terrifying.

  1. Amy Bradu
    March 1, 2019

    Reblogged this on Trans health and commented:
    This post is incredibly important. I feel like a lot of people really don’t understand the sheer scope of this policy, personally, since reading the new york times article back in October I’ve been terrified and keeping a close eye out for any updates on this story, and it’s worrisome that there don’t seem to have been any. This post did a good job of explaining why this change is so scary to a trans person, the mere concept that the executive branch wants to take away our right to do something as simple as exist in a comfortable identity is utterly ludicrous. As any trans person who has flown or gone to get a passport renewed can tell you, a situation in which you have to deadname and misgender yourself to align with the documents is one of the most painful things imaginable. And the medical ramifications of this are an important aspect as well, the original post mentioned how it would be impossible to make a case for anti trans discrimination when trans has been removed as a legal possibility, and this idea would extend to doctors who don’t want to help somebody with a gender transition. I’m glad to see this idea discussed in a way that really does a good job of explaining why it needs to be talked about, and just how terrifying it is from the perspective of the people who would be affected.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Arlene Weiner
    October 26, 2018

    Setting aside the claims of humanity, this policy is wrong on the science. There are a number of variants in the so-called immutable characteristics: people with xo and xxy chromosomes, cryptorchidism, etc. But of course it’s the claims of humanity we should attend to–as Loretta Lynch framed it, moving closer to equal rights for all. I recently spoke to someone who works with families fostering trans- and gender-fluid kids–because their biological parents throw them out.


  3. Jersema
    October 26, 2018

    Wouldn’t you be safer dressing as a man and keeping your surgically altered crotch a secret between you and your beloved? Gender is not such a big deal anyway. Who you are before God is the most important thing Trans men who dress like women are totally freaky. I can be mature and accept you, even though I’m not fooled by your fake boobs, and your lipstick, but others totally freak out with hate. I can appreciate the fact that your surgically created slit is healthier, somewhat, for intimacy, than sodomy, but that’s not really any of our business, and a lot of us just don’t want to know about your sordid sexual details. Can you take some pride in being a man with surgical enhancements (that most of us don’t need to know about)? I want to accept you, but I don’t like being lied to. You’re not a woman.


    • Vox Populi
      October 26, 2018

      Jersema, your comment is the most hateful, bigoted and mean-spirited thing I’ve ever read. No one deserves to be treated the way you’ve treated Robin. You should be ashamed of yourself.


      • Jersema
        October 26, 2018

        He gets a castration and I’m supposed to call him a woman?


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