Weekend Read: 'We won't be erased': Transgender people's existence not up for debate

The existence of transgender people is not up for debate.

But the Trump administration seems to be proposing that our country do just that. The New York Times reported that the Department of Health and Human Services is planning to change the definition of sex encoded in federal civil rights law to one in which sex would be determined by a person’s genitalia at birth.

That would exclude transgender Americans from civil rights protections — and effectively write them out of legal existence.  

The implications of such a proposal are staggering. Take, for instance, its sheer invasiveness, as James Hamblin wrote this week for The Atlantic:

Scientific implausibility aside, this is a federal agency proposing widespread genetic testing and keeping records of citizens’ genitals. This is a proposal by the government imposing an expectation that everyone look and act in one of two ways, and that everything in between is somehow not right — an aberration, an anomaly, a flaw, a problem, a disease — rather than a marvel of the natural world.

Or take the chilling political game theory that critics like the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik see in such a proposal:

There is no conceivable reason to support discrimination against transgender individuals other than to show one can target a community without a strong political voice or political power.

Or take the proposal’s dubious distinction as being merely the latest in a long line of attacks on the transgender community from an administration with a connection to an anti-LGBT hate group. It’s that anti-LGBT history that Masha Gessen was describing when she wrote for The New Yorker this week:

The revocation of rights feels violent because it is violent. … Trump’s is the politics of simplistic categories designed to exclude ever greater numbers of people. This process is most obvious in the politics of immigration, where more and more people are being defined out of citizenship, out of legal residence, out of deserving asylum — out of full personhood. That is precisely what the proposed legal changes will do to people whose gender expression or identity falls outside the newly redefined boxes for “M” and “F.”

We watched cities around the country join in protest this week to say loudly and unequivocally, “We won’t be erased.”

It’s an inspiring message that can apply to all the communities we are serving during this uncertain time — immigrants, people of color, those who have been incarcerated, the economically marginalized and so many more, all of whom find their rights under assault.

But while these protections seem in doubt, our role is crystal clear. As Hiltzik concludes in his piece for the Los Angeles Times:

When word of the Trump administration’s determination to restore and expand discrimination against transgender Americans leaked out, it was left largely to LGBTQ advocacy groups to sound the alarm. But it’s not their battle — or shouldn’t be. It’s part of the battle for the soul of a civilized America, and that battle belongs to all of us.

We couldn’t agree more.

We’re proud to represent our LGBT and gender-nonconforming clients, supporters and people everywhere who know gender both exists on and exceeds a spectrum of identities — every one of them beautiful.

We hope you’ll join us in this fight "for the soul of a civilized America.”

The Editors

P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week:

SPLC's Weekend Reads are a weekly summary of the most important reporting and commentary from around the country on civil rights, economic and racial inequity, and hate and extremism. Sign up to receive Weekend Reads every Saturday morning.

Photo Lucy Nicholson / Reuters