The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is vowing to step in and take legal actions to defend the transgender community against the latest in the Trump administration’s long series of attacks on the trans community.
“The latest attack the Trump Administration proposed new interpretation of “sex” which designates physical attributes such as genitalia at birth as the only, and importantly, crucial marker for determining one’s sex and hence, gender, is nothing short of defining us out of existence,” Amy Hunter, ACLU’s Transgender Advocacy Coordinator, told Grit Post.
It’s not clear how successful Trump will be at redefining sex in reality. Not only is there a strong scientific consensus against him, but also a body of case law. Courts across the country have been weighing in on transgender issues, and Trump can’t will their decisions out of existence. But the policy doesn’t need to even be enacted to do damage to millions of transgender Americans.
“Threatening to strip your very existence out of laws and regulations, leaving our [transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary and intersex] siblings without any path to protection from discrimination and turning millions of people instantly into social outcasts is unimaginably frightening,” Hunter said. “It’s no wonder death by suicide is on the rise.”
And as Grit Post reported on Tuesday, that has had real-world consequences already. Calls to a transgender-specific suicide prevention hotline spiked by four times since the attempt to redefine gender was initially reported.
Hunter talked about the growing visibility of transgender issues in recent years, saying that visibility outpaced public understanding of gender issues. That, coupled with the fact that legalization of gay marriage left religious groups needing new ways to fight the LBGT community, contributed to the tension felt by a very vulnerable minority.
“The voices of the so-called religious right needed a new bogeyman after the Obergefell decision legalizing marriage equality and trans people were, are the perfect target to demonize,” said Hunter. “The emotional toll and stress placed on a vulnerable minority by hateful invective is enormous and when right-wing extremists take that rhetoric to heart it translates to actual violence and shockingly large murder rates.”
And while some sources just seek to marginalize and stigmatize transgender people, some sources aren’t so indirect. Gavin McInnes, founder of the radical right-wing gang Proud Boys, actively encouraged his followers to “choke a tranny” on his Compound Media show.
While the Trump administration seeks to define the transgender community out of legal existence, the ACLU continues to educate the public, and transgender Americans in particular, about their rights. They’re also fighting to defend those rights in court, in cases like that of Aimee Stephens, who was fired from her job at a Michigan funeral home for being transgender, which the ACLU contends is sex discrimination.
For her part, Hunter was hopeful that the transgender community will rally and endure, as has been their legacy since the very founding of the modern LBGT rights movement.
“We — trans people — have always been here and we are resilient. We won’t be erased — we have always been here and here we shall remain to fight for our dignity and for the respect every human being deserves simply because they exist.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.