US & Canada

#WeWontBeErased: Outcry over memo proposing US transgender change

Protesters in New York. One holds a sign saying 'The future isn't binary' Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Demonstrators in New York protested against the report on Sunday evening

There has been an outpouring of anger in the US from politicians, celebrities and human rights groups over a report alleging the US policy on gender recognition could be changed.

A report in the New York Times on Sunday said a government memo proposed officially defining gender as biological and fixed.

The change would rescind previous policy which eased trans recognition.

Instead, it would define gender solely on the genitalia people are born with.

The administration of former President Barack Obama adopted a definition of gender in federal policy which made it easier to allow individual choice and self-determination.

The change sparked a number of complex and long-running legal challenges in conservative states, in areas like the use of toilets.

The Trump administration has previously tried to roll back transgender recognition in areas such as the military and in schools - but it has not commented on the latest report.

Activists fear the changes allegedly being proposed could in effect "define out of existence" Americans who currently identify as transgender - a community who are said to number at least 1.4 million people.

Transgender and gender non-confirming people have been sharing their personal stories and response to the report using the hashtag #WeWontBeErased.

What do media reports say?

The news report published by the New York Times on Sunday said a memo the newspaper had seen from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed establishing a legal and fixed definition of sex under Title IX - a federal civil rights law that outlaws gender discrimination.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesters in Washington State Park hold up a flag for the transgender and gender non-conforming community

The report alleges that the department argues the current lack of clarity allowed civil rights protections to be wrongfully extended to some individuals during the Obama administration.

The proposed change would instead mean people's sex would be legally fixed as either male or female by their genitalia.

"Sex means a person's status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth," the department proposed in the memo, according to the Times.

"The sex listed on a person's birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person's sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence," the memo allegedly says.

The Department of Health and Human Services told US media it will not comment on alleged document leaks.

The Wall Street Journal has also reported on the issue - saying HHS officials hope to release a rule change, but says internal disputes mean it is not clear how extensive it will be.

No-one from the Trump administration has so far commented on the reports.

What has the reaction been?

The report has generated an angry response from some people in and outside of the US, including swathes of the LGBTQ community.

Advocacy groups organised a demonstration on Sunday evening in New York and another protest is planned outside the White House in Washington DC on Monday Morning.

In a series of Tweets on Sunday, the National Centre for Transgender Equality described the changes as an "abomination" and "a reckless attack" on transgender lives.

Human Rights Campaign, one of the country's leading LGBTQ rights groups, said the change would set a "destructive precedent".

Chairman Chad Griffin described the alleged proposal as "the latest effort in a consistent, multi-pronged campaign by the Trump-Pence White House... to undermine the rights and welfare of LGBTQ people."

"Defining 'sex' in this narrow language tailored to the talking points of anti-equality extremists is part of a deliberate strategy to eliminate federal protections for LGBTQ people," he went on.

Members of the transgender community took to social media to protest against the proposal - sharing personal stories and selfies of themselves and family members using #WontBeErased.

Transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox shared the Times story on Twitter, rebutting what she described as the "affront on my existence" insisting "we exist and always have".

Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon and Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness were among those who tweeted "trans rights are human rights" in support, while Juno-star Ellen Page described the proposal as "horrible" in an Instagram post.

Political figures including Bernie Sanders and Chelsea Clinton also joined in, condemning the report into the alleged proposed changes.

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