A leaked health department memo prompted swift backlash from left-leaning individuals and groups angered by President Donald Trump’s administration reportedly considering defining gender according to biological traits.
The memo, first reported by The New York Times, showed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advising the Education Department on a sex discrimination statute for schools that receive federal funding.
HHS reportedly pushed for Title IX discrimination to only cover gender as an immutable trait determined by a person’s genitalia.
In response, two activists published Times op-eds against the report, with the latter arguing that the administration had “erased” them.
“I was surprised to learn on Sunday morning that I do not exist,” activist Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote in an op-ed published Monday.
But not everyone was as upset about the proposed definition.
“It’s still really awesome, though, that our government is just getting back to things that just are,” Jeffrey McCall, who self-identifies as “ex-transgender,” told IJR.
McCall said that as someone who tried transitioning, he sympathized with individuals who felt trapped in the wrong body.
He and other individuals with similar backgrounds will gather in Los Angeles next month for the Freedom March, an event focused on celebrating what the organizers describe as “freedom from homosexual/transgender lifestyles.”
IJR also received comment from Grace Harley, who similarly describes herself as “ex-transgender.” Harley said she agreed with the Trump administration’s reported decision “because as long as humans have existed, sex has always been determined by genitalia.”
“The sex of a child is determined at birth, barring any type of unusual genetic disposition or physical infirmity,” she said.
Jamie Shupe, who is self-described as “non-binary,” told IJR that the Trump administration’s reported decision was “tough medicine” but was also “fair.”
Shupe added that “President Trump and Vice President Pence are now doing exactly what a lot of the people who put them in office voted for them to do.”
Amid criticism of the leaked proposal, Trump said that he sought to protect “everybody,” including people who described themselves as transgender.
“I’m protecting everybody. I want to protect our country,” he said. He also indicated that his policy on gender was still forming.
“We have a lot of different concepts right now. They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now,” he said.
HHS told IJR that it didn’t comment on “alleged, leaked documents.” In a statement provided to IJR, HHS Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino said his organization had to follow a court order on gender identity.
“A federal court has blocked HHS’s rule on gender identity and termination of pregnancy as contrary to law and infringing the rights of healthcare providers across the country,” Severino said in the statement. “The court order remains in full force and effect today and HHS is abiding by it as we continue to review the issue.”
Severino was referring to a 2016 court decision in which a federal court enjoined the Obama administration’s definition of sex, saying it was overbroad.
“That court found that the Obama administration regulation was overbroad and inconsistent with the text of the 1972 Title IX law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex,” HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said.
“Everyone deserves to be treated with respect,” Oakley added, “and HHS’s Office for Civil Rights will continue to vigorously enforce all laws as written and passed by Congress, prohibiting discrimination in healthcare on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, and disability.”