The Danger of Redefining Sex

By Ethan Katz ‘22


On Sunday, October 21st, the New York Times obtained a particularly distressing memo from the Trump administration in accordance with The Department of Health and Human Services. According to the NYT, “The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.”

Upon reading this statement, I was struck with misery. I am among the approximately 1.4 million Americans who would cease to exist in the eyes of the law if the Trump administration were to change the legal definition of sex. This could affect my ability to access healthcare. This could affect my access to change my gender marker, which signifies one’s gender on legal documents such as passports. Having a gender marker which does not match your gender identity paves the way for harassment, discrimination, discomfort, and fear. Now, take that fear, and apply it to 1.4 million people. 1.4 million people are afraid of losing their basic human rights because of the opinions of one cisgender man. If sex is redefined in this fashion, everything would be made infinitely harder for transgender Americans because we would no longer be recognized by the federal government; we’d instead have to rely on state anti-discrimination laws, which don’t even exist in the majority of states.

Over the past two years, the Trump administration has made a point of targeting LGBTQ+ people. The 45th president has been attacking queer rights since his second day in office. His first action, seemingly harmless, was removing all LGBTQ+ issues from the White House’s official website. The administration went on to try to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military, roll back protections for queer Americans, and appoint federal judges with extreme bias against LGBTQ+ people.

It’s not that I didn’t see this coming. It’s that I desperately wanted to be wrong. The memo obtained by The New York Times shouldn’t have surprised me, and yet it did. The deeply hateful actions of the Trump administration appall me every single time; each new measure taken against LGBTQ+ people still feeling unexpected and foreign. Every new piece of bigoted legislation, every close-minded comment, every unchangeable lifetime appointment—they all shock and sadden me time and time again. But President Trump and those who back his anti-LGBTQ+ agenda are doing more than trying to pass harmful legislation. Their influence extends to our cities, towns, neighborhoods, and communities. Their bigotry manifests itself in all of those with hate in their heart. Trump’s hate roots itself into the impressionable minds of questioning, closeted, and openly LGBTQ+ teenagers. According to the Trevor Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing suicide among LGBTQ+ youth, every time the government takes action against transgender people, their suicide hotline call volume sees a dramatic spike. Furthermore, according to the recent FBI hate crime statistics, in the first year of Trump’s presidency, transgender Americans experienced a 44% increase in hate crimes from 2015. Clearly, the current administration’s biases have a dangerous effect on transgender people.

Being a trans person in Heschel is not the same as being trans in the “real world.” The real world is scarier. More unpredictable. In reality, there aren’t always going to be all-gender bathrooms. And once that truth sinks in, so does the intensely harsh reality of this memo and its implications.

The Trump administration, in attempting to federally redefine gender, is trying to undermine 1.4 million Americans. They think they can erase a whole group of people. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Trans people aren’t going anywhere—we are some of the strongest people you’ll ever meet. And we will not be erased.

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