The White House’s Pride Month Gift: Rolling Back Transgender Protections

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

As the LGBTQA+ community and straight allies alike celebrate Pride Month, the Trump Administration took it upon itself to remove protections for transgender Americans across many areas: hiring, health care and even the military. This was not purely out of coincidence, tied into other legislation of a different cause: the White House is specifically targeting transgender people for their identity.

The legislation would specifically end transgender protection under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which is aimed to end discrimination.

Although transgenderism in and of itself is not outlawed in the United States like in much of the rest of the world, transgender people face extreme injustices, including higher rates of homelessness and ferociously high murder rates, especially among transgender people of color. Our country has often been reluctant to grant full rights to its minority and LGBTQA+ communities, and Time Magazine considers the battle for transgender rights the “tipping point” for Americans.

With this, President Trump seeks to strictly define sex as “biologically determined at birth.” He has also taken further action in the past, including revoking an Obama-era policy allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice. And some Christian schools that opposed transgender rights have been defended by the administration.

However, on June 15, the Supreme Court recently ruled that federal civil rights laws protect gay, lesbian, and transgender workers, throwing a monkey wrench into the administration’s aims by striking down employment-related matters that Trump may target. Trump’s definition of “sex” in this case could run into trouble, legal experts say, and the court ruling could cover those with different gender identities than assigned at birth.

The case against workplace discrimination. / FIU Flickr

Many, myself included, were surprised at the Supreme Court’s sudden turn to a socially liberal perspective, as is mostly Conservative and holds the keys to any attempt at reform in our country. May this be a sign that the Justices finally see this as a Human Rights Issue.

However, the ruling does not prioritize transgender individuals and mostly focuses on employment discrimination. If Trump tries to uphold his discriminatory measures that may not directly violate the ruling, he may see some success but could also see the dominoes fall against him as momentum from this case hits other areas of the law.

It is promising to see America’s highest court finally take the right side of history on this issue, despite the narrow vote margin. Because the court quite literally “trumps” the president, we may finally see an improvement in public perceptions of transgender people as well as a higher standard of living for the community. Before this, we were seeing some progress as awareness of the transgender community was growing, especially in film and modeling.

This comes as public support for nondiscrimination rights for the LGBTQA+ community is at a majority in all 50 states, although opinions on some transgender rights, such as allowing for athletic competition based on identity, still remains low. Indeed, we recently saw mammoth protests in support of black transgender lives amid Black Lives Matter action, raising awareness of a largely forgotten and abused demographic.

Because President Trump opposes a set of rights most Americans seem to support, these developments reflect how the country has become more socially Liberal even as the president and Senate remain tied to out-of-date ideals. 

It is plausible that many lawsuits will emerge regarding this, as confusion remains over the definition of “sex” and transgender people face a deadly pandemic that has only worsened their financial well-being and health vulnerabilities. Those in power who have vehemently opposed transgender rights show no signs of changing their mind, and the influence of the religious right in Conservative parties will only complicate matters.

The fact that we have had years of legal fighting regarding transgender rights in a free country—and will certainly continue to—is troubling. Transgender Americans face difficulties non-trans people can’t even contemplate, so we must not judge. After all, if we can come around to civil rights, gay marriage and bisexuality, why not transgenderism? 

This proves that our country has improved in certain areas but definitely needs more work in others. In addition, Trump’s rollbacks were pursued around the anniversary of the 2016 Pulse shooting, a huge middle finger to the LGBTQA+ community he pledged to be a “friend” to.

The takeaway in all this is that we still have a lot of work to do. The solution is to keep working hard, spreading the message of equality and of full LGBTQA+ rights until it is achieved and hate is rooted out indefinitely. 

Although arguments exist against full inclusion in sports, for example, we must bring more transgender people into the conversation and listen to trans voices, no matter how much it inconveniences more privileged people. We cannot continue to tolerate barriers to transgender equality under the guise of “biology” or “logic.”

If we are to uphold America’s values of freedom, liberty and justice for all, it starts with giving a helping hand to our most vulnerable and embracing people for who they are. Not temporarily, or until they are slightly less unequal, but until they are equal.

Featured image by ong somos on Flickr.

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The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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