(EDITOR’S NOTE, 10/31/18, 5:03 PM ET: This article was updated to include a link to Grit Post’s interview with the ACLU about their planned legal battle against the transgender redefinition proposal.)
The Trump Administration is seeking to define transgender people out of existence, and according to suicide prevention hotline Trans Lifeline, it might be working.
Last week the New York Times broke a story about the administration’s intention to define “sex” as being based on observation of genitals at birth, which would be definitive unless challenged on the basis of genetics. This means that transgender people would be barred from any manner of legal recognition.
And it’s had devastating consequences already, according to one suicide hotline for transgender people.
Twice the normal number of new callers and four times the number of overall callers have reached out to Trans Lifeline in crisis since the memo was leaked.
“At Trans Lifeline we are able see in real time that policy debates don’t take place in a vacuum — they have direct and immediate impacts on real lives,” said the organization’s executive director Sam Ames. “Playing politics with civil rights of a vulnerable population has consequences. But moments like this are exactly why Trans Lifeline exists.”
The memo was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, which earlier this year removed all mention of transgender Americans from its Office of Civil Rights website page on sex discrimination. HHS also established a “Conscience and Freedom Division” to protect doctors who refuse to treat patients they morally object to treating, further endangering transgender Americans.
The target on the trans community is not limited to HHS, however. The Department of Justice argued that businesses have the right to discriminate against transgender employees in advance of a Supreme Court case on the matter.
The Trump administration’s history on transgender issues is one of hostility — from the multiple attempts the president has made to ban transgender people from military service, to the Department of Education’s rollback of transgender protections.
While there’s no question that this has left an alarming number of Americans in crisis, response from transgender allies was swift and continues to grow in profile and fervor.
Starting from a #WontBeErased rally in the immediate wake of the memo, activists have staged demonstrations resisting the policy language that would strip the rights of transgender Americans. On Monday, demonstrators unfurled a massive transgender flag at the Lincoln Memorial just a day after a flag reading “Trans people deserve to live” was flown at the World Series.
The ACLU told Grit Post that they plan on aggressively fighting the administration’s attempts to redefine the transgender community out of existence, calling the proposal “unimaginably frightening.”
Transgender Americans in crisis in the current political climate can reach out to Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860, the Trevor Project LBGT Suicide Prevention Hotline at 866-488-7386, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.