Gender & Sexuality

Trans Rights


Last week, the New York Times broke news of the Trump administration’s latest attack on oppressed people—its attempt to erase trans, nonbinary, and intersex people out of existence. Several rallies have already taken place in New York City and Washington to reject this attempt.

October 31, 2018

Photo credit: Chelsey Sanchez

Last week, the New York Times broke news of the Trump administration’s latest attack on oppressed people—its attempt to erase trans, nonbinary, and intersex people out of existence. According to a memo made by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Trump administration is proposing to define gender as “immutable” and “based on biology” to exclude trans people from civil rights protections under federal law.

According to the memo, the administration is proposing to define “sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with. It adds, “Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing”. Trans people already face inordinate discrimination in the health system. In New York State, for example, trans people are excluded from receiving New York State Medicaid. Studies have reported that as many as 70% of trans people have experienced medical discrimination. Under Trump, this will only become worse. According to the new definition, medical providers who misgender or refuse to treat trans patients would be immune from legal charges of discrimination.

The proposal is an attempt to exclude trans people from civil rights protection under Title IX, the law that bans gender discrimination in government-funded educational programs. Under Obama, the legal definition of “sex” was changed to include gender identity as part of a revision to expand trans people’s civil rights protections.

But this is just the first of a series of attacks on trans people by the Trump administration, which is rolling back changes made under Obama’s administration, such as ignoring health care discrimination claims involving trans people. Last year, Trump tried to pass legislation banning trans people from serving in the military. This past spring, the Department of Justice also adopted an illegal policy to house trans people in prison facilities that correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth. Back in February, the Department of Education announced it would dismiss complaints from transgender students regarding exclusion from school facilities. And just a few days ago, the Justice Department announced that businesses can discriminate against workers based on their gender identity without violating federal law.

The administration has also attempted to remove questions on gender identity from the 2020 U.S. Census. Everywhere in the United States, it seems, trans rights are under attack. But attacks on oppressed people are a fundamental part of Trump’s program.

The memo comes a week after the triumph of the right-wing candidate known as Brazil’s version of Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, who has openly called for the torture and murder of LGBTI people in addition to other oppressed communities, such as Black and Indigenous people, in the first round of elections . Just last week a transwoman in Brazil was murdered by Bolsonaro supporters.

The Trump memo also comes at a key moment just before the midterm elections in the United States, which feature a record number of LGBTQI candidates running for office, and as 7,500 people are marching from Honduras across Guatemala and Mexico to cross the U.S. border, in what is known as the migrant caravan. The journey, extremely dangerous, poses especially high dangers for trans migrants. This past summer, Roxana Hernández, a transwoman from Honduras who was HIV positive and fleeing violence and persecution, died in ICE custody at 33 years old after being held in a detention center with freezing temperatures and without access to medical care. Roxana’s death is a reminder that the struggle against trans erasure is also a struggle for immigrant rights, a struggle for all oppressed people, against imperialism and capitalism.

As the coming year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, we must recall that they were led by transwomen of color Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and return to their legacy. We, the oppressed and the working class, must organize in our workplaces and universities and mobilize in the streets.

Several rallies have already taken place in New York City and Washington. On Monday, October 28, in New York, Left Voice, along with the Democratic Socialists of America, International Socialist Organization, International Women’s Strike, National Women’s Liberation, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Socialist Alternative, New York City for Abortion Rights, Red Bloom, Socialist Action, Freedom Socialist Party, and Radical Women organized a rally.


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