As anyone who has taken a gender and women’s studies class can affirm, sex is a biological distinction assigned at birth. The World Health Organization describes gender as “refer[ring] to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men — such as norms, roles and relationships.”
President Donald Trump’s administration, however, recently announced it is considering changing the definition of gender to refer to a biological distinction assigned at birth, essentially redefining gender as the same as sex. This would make gender static and determined by the genitalia one is born with.
This is a direct threat to the transgender and non-binary communities, as it would essentially invalidate anyone who identifies with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. To say this would affect the way society views gender is an understatement. There are currently 1.4 million Americans who identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth and changing this definition would effectively invalidate their identities.
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Though there was much opposition to Trump’s decision to rescind Obama’s protections for transgender people to use the bathroom of their choosing, this is a whole different kind of discrimination. What Trump is trying to do is discredit an entire group of people.
This is wrong and discriminatory, and shows the lack of respect Trump has for those who choose to identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth.
This new definition of gender would affect so much more than just bathroom use or conceptual ideas — the redefining of gender could lead to a drop in discrimination cases against transgender and non-binary people and possibly even require new documentation for schools to collect regarding the gender of their students. Not only could this enable discrimination, but it could also force schools to become more invasive, potentially requiring proof of one’s gender by showing the sex they were assigned at birth.
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This could even affect students at the University of Wisconsin, a campus known to be inclusive. Though the school’s recent renaming of the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center shows it is accepting of all gender identities, changing the definition of gender could impact how the school legally views the transgender and non-binary communities and cultivate greater intolerance on campus of different gender identities.
Considering this was proposed two weeks before the approaching midterm elections, one has to wonder whether this was a tactical move by the Trump administration to gain the support of Republicans who do not support the transgender and non-binary communities. Whether or not it was used strategically, this is a low blow.
All of the progress achieved by President Barack Obama’s administration to loosen the definition of gender and recognize the transgender and non-binary communities as legitimate may have been for nothing. Now that the definition of gender could be considered unchangeable and decided at birth, transgender and non-binary communities could essentially lose their place in society.
Furthermore, this brings into question how those born as intersex would be defined, since those born as intersex do not fit the typical biological definitions of male and female. Does this mean intersex would be considered a third gender? The question has not been addressed by the Trump administration, which only defined the possible genders as “male” and “female.”
Considering recent events, it is clear bigotry still has a place here in the U.S. To say this makes everyone helpless, however, is incorrect.
We must fight against this kind of discrimination, and show those of all races, religions and identities that they are welcome here — in the U.S., in Wisconsin and in Madison. This can be as simple as using more inclusive phrases (everyone vs. ladies and gentlemen) or asking someone for their preferred pronouns. Even little acts like these show respect to the transgender and non-binary communities. In times like these, we must show respect to each other, regardless of individual identity.
Courtney Degen ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and intending to major in journalism.