On the morning of Sunday, October 21st, intersex and trans people across the country arose to news of the Trump administration’s latest use of the trans community as political specters. The Right’s rhetorical strategy operates within a trend in recent history where legislatures capitalize on public anti-trans sentiment to strip the wider liberties of marginalized communities. Most infamously, North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2) received international recognition as an attack on trans people, but it also gutted the state’s discrimination laws. In framing HB2 most principally as a trans piece of legislation, the Right mobilized both its own religious base and general anti-trans sentiment to pass a bill that also harmed working-class people.
The internal memo, as first released by the New York Times details the Trump administration’s plans to revise Title IX policy to narrowly define gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth. Unlike the trans military ban, widely assuaged with comments of Trump’s overall belligerence, the internal memo was drafted and circulated in the White House in Spring 2018 in consultation with the Department of Health Services and the Department of Education. As such, the latest attack against intersex and trans people cannot simply be thought of as another impulsive Trump tweet. The magnitude of this policy cannot be overstated, but here are just a few of its possible implications:
- In partnership with the Department of Education, the Trump administration seeks to genetically test trans students and will require this documentation as part of college applications and Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- The redefinition of gender will open the flood gates for legal discrimination and violence against trans and intersex people in terms of employment, housing, health care, education, and access to public services writ large. The only state that currently protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity is Massachusetts & if you are a constituent, we urge you to vote “yes” on Prop 3.
- In partnership with with the Department of Health and Public Services, the Trump administration may allow insurance companies to refuse coverage of the life saving medical procedures and medications some trans people elect to have. Given that medical professionals will not be trained in trans competency, intersex and trans people will face increased violence in medical care.
- Trans and intersex people will no longer be allowed to change their gender markers to those that best represent our chosen presentation and truth. Those who have already changed their federal documents will see their documents revoked.
- In May the Trump administration rescinded protections for trans prisoners. However this most recent assault will further impact the incarceration of trans individuals, and our trans siblings already behind bars. Poor trans people who have interactions with the government in order to survive will face more harassment as these policies reverberate.
- After the internal memo was released, the trans lifeline has received four times the number of calls than usual. According to UCLA, the transgender suicide rate prior to the memo was an epidemic 40%. This can only be expected to increase if this memo takes hold.
While insulated by an institution of higher learning which privileges us in comparison to the reality of many trans people of color who face mass incarceration, Pitzer’s unresponsiveness is a testament to the rest of society’s inaction when trans lives are on the line. On October 25th, we conducted an informal poll of individuals who are US trans students on Twitter. Out of the 189 respondents, 81 percent indicated a parallel experience to our own with no institutional response to the memo. As students at the purportedly progressive Pitzer College, ranked 10th on the Princeton Review’s list of most LGBT friendly colleges, this silence shows that schools, soon to be battlegrounds where this policy is tested, are ill-prepared to advocate for intersex and trans students.
In the event of a national tragedy or concerning legislative advancement of particular relevance to the student population, Pitzer typically sends out a campus-wide email. However, after nearly a week has elapsed following the news of the internal memo, no administrator, faculty or Consortium-wide resource/cultural center has made a public statement condemning the memo, offering institutional support, or reached out personally to trans students on campus.
Although we have access to a Queer Resource Center, even the support network for TLGB students on campus has not made any remarks, an exemplification of the disengagement of LGB communities from intersex and trans folks. Although we raise an alarm to these silences, we are not surprised given the failure of the president to send out any emails to address the rate of trans women of color murdered each year which has steadily increased. These silences also remind us of the absence of Black trans women across institutions of higher education. If trans students do not promise direct social capital in terms of diversity for the college, then we have no value. As the Right is emboldened to attack trans people, once again, we as trans people can only rely on each other to survive.
Now that students on campus whose trans visibility has been capitalized on by the institution are at risk of further discrimination and violence in terms of employment, health care, education and access to public services, what does the institution plan to do about it?
Yours in resistance,
Aleo Pugh & Victor Ultra Omni