25 LGBTQ Advocacy Groups Condemn Trump Memo Erasing Trans Americans

LGBTQ people won’t be erased.

At least 25 advocacy groups have condemned a Trump administration memo which seeks to establish a federal definition of gender that excludes transgender people. According to the New York Times, a proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would define gender as “clear, grounded in science, objective, and administrable.”

If the draft memo is adopted, gender would be designated by the federal government as unchangeable and determined by birth.

It will reportedly be submitted to the Justice Department later this year.

In response, organizations like Lambda Legal, GLSEN, and the Trevor Project say the memo — which will most directly impact Title IX — will cause significant harm to a population they say has frequently been in the administration’s crosshairs.

Here are some statements below. This list will be updated as more reactions roll in.

 

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President for People For the American Way

“Trump wants to discriminate and attack people without consequences. His administration wants to eliminate protections for LGBTQ people to appeal to his far-right base. It’s a sick, cynical attempt to bully a marginalized community and distract from his own failures as a leader. Americans must stand firm, and Congress should immediately assert itself against this disgraceful attempt at discrimination.”

 

Stephanie Battaglino, Board Member for PFLAG National

“This callous, outrageous, hateful and inhuman action both enrages and frightens me to my core. The mere notion that a government, any government, expresses desire to enact rules that erase and endanger an entire group of individuals is to disregard the very values that PFLAG was founded on: Love, Respect, Compassion. The fact is that transgender people are a proud part of our families, communities, and society at large. To push them aside without dignity or fair recognition is infuriating, troubling, and dangerous for us all as co-workers, fellow family members, and neighbors.

“I am proud that the people of PFLAG who are non-LGBTQ support us fully, and know I stand in solidarity with my #trans and #genderfluid siblings when I say: You cannot eradicate me! I am here! I am undeterred! My true self is a living, breathing, loving, human being. These things you cannot and will not take away from me, for they are embedded in my soul and in my spirit! And with PFLAG and others, I know I’m not alone.”

 

Dr. Eliza Byard, Executive Director at GLSEN

“This is only the most recent evidence of this Administration’s dedication to harming the most vulnerable among us. To claim that this proposal has anything to do with science, objectivity, and the requirements of effective administration is a vicious lie. From very early in this Administration, we have met with officials to ensure they heard firsthand from transgender students facing harm in our nation’s K-12 schools. Despite all the evidence – from science, from the experience of school administrators, and from students and their parents themselves – they have chosen instead to do them further harm.

“When it comes to determining the medical needs of youth and children, we need to listen to physicians– not politicians. Last month,  the American Academy of Pediatrics made it clear that medical professionals agree that transgender youth deserve the care, safety, and supports to live healthy lives as they identify their gender.

“Fortunately, school leaders across the country have ample practical examples of how they can support transgender students and afford them the dignity and respect that basic humanity requires. GLSEN has worked for more than a decade with school districts that have done this well, with no disciplinary issues or complaints. Model policy recommendations based on their wealth of practical experience can be found at www.glsen.org/modelpolicies. Guidance for teachers interested in transgender-inclusive pedagogy, based on the experience of their peers and the requests of students themselves, can be found at www.glsen.org/safespace.

“Make no mistake, this administration’s relentless assault on transgender people is already causing harm. Just last week, GLSEN released our most recent report on LGBTQ youth experiences in schools (www.glsen.org/nscs) which illustrated an alarming threat to the progress made in the lives of LGBTQ students over the past decade, including a steady increase in negative remarks heard about transgender people. 87% of LGBTQ youth reported hearing negative remarks about transgender people.

“We have seen over the past decade how sound and humane government policy can make people’s lives better. In contrast, our current administration is providing an obscene demonstration of the exercise of power to do harm.”

 

Alejandra Caraballo, Transgender Attorney at New York Legal Assistance Group

“We will not be erased, we will not be defined out of existence, and we will not be intimidated to go back into hiding. We as a community will use every available legal and political strategy to fight this administrations bigoted policies. They will not win this fight.”

 

Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force

“Trump is too late. We are not going back to a time when transgender people were in the closet, were ignored, or excluded. As a society and as a community, we have already moved on. We are here and not going anywhere. The National LGBTQ Task Force is fighting Trump’s heartless, extremist, and transparent political attack on millions of Americans.

“The courts, science, medicine, and civil and human rights leaders are united in the definition of gender, sex, gender identity, gender expression, and gender discrimination –– no matter what Trump and his administration says or does. Transgender people are our teachers, doctors, veterinarians, veterans, business owners, clergy, children, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. Transgender and gender non-conforming people are people, and no re-writing of the rules can delete us.

“If Trump and the other narrow-minded bigots in the administration were to have their way, these new rules would impact nearly every segment of our society. This is an attempt to roll back civil rights. Anyone who does not conform to rigid gender stereotypes could be at risk. Everyone deserves rights and protection. No exclusions. It is disgusting that leaders who are paid by the people of the United States of America would be using our tax dollars to purposefully deny anyone in our nation rights and protections. The rules being proposed are vile, politically motivated, and discriminatory.

“Dehumanizing those you do not like is the hallmark of an authoritarian government.

“The Trump administration’s cruelty only further unites the voices of progress. We have the law on our side, we have the medical community on our side, we have morality on our side, we have decency on our side. Most of all, we have an incredibly resilient transgender community leading us towards inclusion, justice, and equality for all. The National LGBTQ Task Force will do everything in our power to fight these proposed rule changes. We will not back down.”

 

Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans

“This proposal from the Trump administration ignores science, it ignores the growing will of voters and elected officials across the country, and it ignores basic human dignity. If the administration moves forward with its attempts to so narrowly define sex throughout federal law, it will be complicit in increasing discrimination and violence against transgender Americans on a multitude of fronts. This action represents an affront to the basic promises of freedom, opportunity, and equality that all Americans cherish.”

 

Gina Duncan, Director of Transgender Equality for Equality Florida

“The proposed policy is another attempt by the Trump Administration to rollback important protections and rights for the transgender community.

“In Florida, and across the nation, we’ve seen firsthand how these types of dehumanizing policies can lead to an increase in discrimination and violence against the transgender community. Transgender people, especially transgender women of color, already experience violence at a disproportionate rate. Since February, five black transgender women have been brutally murdered in Florida, representing nearly a quarter of all reported anti-transgender murders in the entire nation so far this year. This spike in violence against the transgender community should spur our leaders at all levels of government to take action to affirm trans people, not create divisive policies that lead to more hate and anti-transgender bias.

“Equality Florida stands with the many civil and human rights organizations and advocates fighting against this discriminatory policy by the Trump Administration. We support and urge people to use the hashtag #WontBeErased to stand in solidarity with the transgender and gender non-conforming community.

“To our transgender family, we see you and we will continue fighting for your right to live as your authentic selves. We also encourage anyone who has experienced discrimination to report the incident to Equality Florida right away.”

 

Laura Durso, Vice President of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at Center for American Progress

“This memo lays plain that the Trump-Pence administration refuses to see transgender people as people and that they will ignore the law and science to advance their discriminatory agenda. If put into place, this strategy will have deep impacts well beyond education, undermining protections in health care, employment, and other areas, effectively making it unsafe for transgender people everywhere.

“While guidance is historically used to ensure agency practices are in line with the law, the Trump-Pence administration is using guidance to instruct agencies to ignore the consensus of courts around the country and decades of progress on civil rights protections. This denigration of the transgender community signals to federal contractors and grantees that they can contribute to the harassment and violence transgender people regularly experience — and the administration will turn a blind eye.”

 

James Esseks, Director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project

“This is an attack on the very lives and existence of transgender people. It is painful, it is hateful, and it will not go unchallenged. Transgender people have the right to not only exist, but to fully participate in public life. Transgender people are real and transgender lives have meaning.

“If the Trump administration moves forward with these hateful and hurtful policies, they will once again be met with opposition in courts and in communities. More and more courts are seeing that policies targeting transgender people have no place in our country. The ACLU will fight back against any efforts to use transgender people as political pawns and continue to seek full equality for transgender and nonbinary people.”

 

Diana Flynn, Litigation Director at Lambda Legal

“Yesterday, transgender Americans received confirmation of what we had long suspected – namely, the Trump-Pence administration was literally trying to write them out of the law by defining them out of existence. This effort, spearheaded by anti-LGBTQ extremists in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not only willfully ignores the long line of federal cases protecting transgender people but also inexplicably disregards the vast consensus of medical authority.”

“Yesterday’s New York Times story was based on a draft memo that the newspaper reported has been circling since last spring. According to the story, in its memo, HHS proposed that for purposes of Title IX, ‘Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth. 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.’

“If the New York Times story is accurate, the sheer breadth of what HHS is proposing is jaw-dropping. HHS would be calling on the federal agencies that enforce parts of Title IX — including the Departments of Labor, Justice and Education in addition to HHS — to accept its completely arbitrary definition of what constitutes a person’s ‘sex’ for purposes of applying federal antidiscrimination law in aspects of life ranging from education to employment to health care. This is clearly another ideologically-driven attempt by the Trump administration to marginalize transgender people and force them into the shadows. They have neither law nor fact on their side, and we will not accept this shameless attempt on the part of our government to erase the very existence of transgender members of our community.

“Let us be clear: For years, courts across the country have recognized that discriminating against someone because they are transgender is a form of sex discrimination, full stop. If this administration wants to try and turn back the clock by moving ahead with its own legally frivolous and scientifically unsupportable definition of sex, we will be there to meet that challenge.”

 

Bianey Garcia, TGNCIQ (Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, Intersex, and Queer) organizer at Make the Road New York

“Transgender people like me will not stand by while Trump tries to erase us. As the current administration continues the attacks on our communities—this time against trans and gender non-conforming communities—we will stand together and show that our fights are connected.

“In Queens, our Trans Immigrant Project will continue to elevate and uplift transgender, gender non-conforming, intersex, queer and non-binary lives, and take to the streets, the courthouse, and the halls of government to resist these attacks. Our trans community refuses to be erased—not by Trump, not by his bigoted cronies, not by anyone. Our existence is resistance and we will continue to proudly affirm our humanity and our strength.”

 

Dolph Goldenburg, Interim Executive Director for the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund 

“The headline in yesterday’s New York Times said it all: “The Trump Administration [is] Trying to Define Transgender Out of Existence.”

“Because of the leaked Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) memo, we know that DHHS hopes to define gender as male or female as designated at birth. We condemn this attempt as cruel, unfair, and punitive to transgender and gender nonconforming Americans who simply seek to live as their authentic selves. 

“This has not been the administration’s first attack on transgender Americans, and it likely won’t be the last. Many transgender and gender nonconforming people throughout the nation are truly frightened by this latest attempt to roll back decades of progress, but our community has time to organize and fight this effort. To be clear, DHHS’ internal memo itself can’t change policy and it can’t change the law. 

“Before DHHS can change the current definition, it must seek public comment and explain how it will address concerns. TLDEF will work with our partners, other civil rights organizations, and the medical community to flood the Department with comments opposing a change in the definition and demanding a response to these proposed changes. 

“We will also organize progressive health and human service organizations to question why DHHS spends its resources attacking tax-paying, law-abiding transgender Americans when nearly 30 million people remain without healthcare in our country. 

“We are gearing up for the fight of our lives in the coming months, and we hope you will stand with TLDEF and support our efforts.

“We won’t be erased.”

 

Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign

“Setting a destructive precedent, the Trump-Pence administration intends to erase LGBTQ people from federal civil rights protections and eviscerate enforcement of non-discrimination laws. 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. This is a direct attack on the fundamental equality of LGBTQ people and, if this administration refuses to reverse course, Congress must immediately take action by advancing the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ people are explicitly protected by our nation’s civil rights laws.”

 

Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center

“Because of brave people like Ash Whitaker and Gavin Grimm and so many others, transgender and gender nonconforming communities have achieved wins in the courts. Through key victories like Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District and Macy v. Holder, courts and government agencies have made clear that transgender and gender nonconforming people are protected from discrimination under federal civil rights laws and the U.S. Constitution.

“The draft memo the NYT reported on this weekend, a document written by officials at HHS, is transparently a hate-motivated response to these victories. It attempts to rewrite years of progress achieved by advocates under the Obama administration. Here, written out plain, is their attempt to erase our very existence as transgender people. This memo reveals that this administration intends nothing short of our destruction.

“To be clear: nothing this administration can do will undermine the scores of federal courts that have recognized our humanity and hundreds of state and local legal protections we’ve already won.

“We know now that the administration intends to ignore the preponderance of law, science and evidence on gender identity to empower hate and rollback access to healthcare and to make schools less safe for transgender and gender nonconforming youth. Transgender Law Center will fight this as we’ve fought all of the attacks by this administration, and the many attacks that came before the current administration. In community, we will organize and protect each other through our joint campaign with National Center for Transgender Equality, #ProtectTransHealth, as well as by working with local leaders in states that have faced or are facing anti-trans ballot measures and successfully defeated these attempts. Whether the fight takes us to the courts, to the ballot box, or to the streets, we will continue to fight for a country in which all of us enjoy dignity and respect.

“This summer, we marched in honor of Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman and asylum seeker from Honduras who died in ICE detention. In the past few weeks, we have mourned the deaths of black trans women. We are a community under attack, but we are not silent and we won’t be erased.”

 

Cristina Herrera, CEO and founder of the [email protected] Network

“The trans Latinx community is extremely worried now more than ever because governmental institutions are actively working to set back or eliminate our rights—or simply erase us from existence. It’s a very stressful and alarming moment. We are responding to address this by gathering our community to prepare and educate them about this, especially those TransLatinx people that are undocumented that are at greater risk of discrimination and violence.”

 

David J. Johns, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC)

“The character and nature of the current regime in power in Washington is now even more transparent with credible reports that they are planning to rollback critical civil rights protections for transgender and gender non-binary Americans.

“This latest move is discriminatory and a huge setback for the progress we made under the Obama Administration when our country’s leadership recognized the dignity of and need to protect the rights of all people — not only in rhetoric, but also in practice, specifically with respect to equal protection under the law.

“Nefarious plans to define gender, in civil rights statute and throughout the federal government, as based solely on a person’s birth certificate or external genitalia, is pure evil, without medical or scientific grounding and an attack on the humanity of transgender and gender non-binary people everywhere.

“Our nation cannot afford to sit back and allow toxic leadership in Washington to engage in political warfare by advancing a sick ideological agenda that includes legal dehumanization of and discrimination against the most marginalized members of our community. This is a political play to make gains right before the midterm election.

“Make no mistakes about this action and its implications. Sister Angela Davis reminded us some time ago ‘if they come for me in the morning, they will come for you at night.’ We should be clear when our transgender family is under attack, we are all under attack. No one’s humanity should be debated or denied in a democracy, this is not America.”

 

Mara Keisling, Executive Director for the National Center for Trans Equality

“This proposal is an attempt to put heartless restraints on the lives of 2 million people, effectively abandoning our right to equal access to health care, to housing, to education, or to fair treatment under the law. This administration is willing to disregard the established medical and legal view of our rights and ourselves to solidify an archaic, dogmatic, and frightening view of the world. This transparent political attack will not succeed administratively, legally, or morally.

“In the name of preempting some misinformation, let’s talk about what this proposed rule would not do. It would not eliminate the precedents set by dozens of federal courts over the last two decades affirming the full rights and identities of transgender people. It would not undo the consensus of the medical providers and scientists across the globe who see transgender people, know transgender people, and urge everyone to accept us for who we are. And no rule—no administration—can erase the experiences of transgender people and our families. While foolish, this proposed rule deflates itself in the face of the facts, and the facts don’t care how the Trump administration feels.

“To transgender people: I know you are frightened. I know you are horrified to see your existence treated in such an inhumane and flippant manner. What this administration is trying to do is an abomination, a reckless attack on your life and mine. But this administration is also staffed by inexperienced amateurs overplaying their hand by taking extreme positions that ignore law, medicine, and basic human decency.

“With each awful headline like this, remember that you are far from alone. NCTE and other organizations are continuing to fight against this bigotry. Remember that there is an entire human rights community that not only stands with us but will always fight back—and fight hard. Thousands of us have devoted our lives to protecting you and your families, and our ability to do so is nothing short of a privilege. And we will not lay down now.

“Transgender people have fought rules like this one in federal and state court and won. We have stood toe-to-toe with administrators, legislatures, and executives who would agree with this rule and yet we won. We have fought and will continue to fight for The Equality Act, a bill currently in Congress that would explicitly enshrine civil rights protections for transgender people—Congress must pass this long overdue bill now. We know how to defeat this, and we will do everything we can until every transgender person feels secure in their rights under the law.

“At the heart of our work at NCTE is the belief that no one should have to suffer just to be true to themselves. And yet transgender people are still often forced from their homes, fired from their jobs, harassed at their schools, and denied the most basic level of dignity by a broken system. Knowing this, millions of transgender people wake up every day and step into an uncertain world. This is the most common trait shared by transgender people: A strength and resilience for hard and difficult times. If this administration is hoping to demoralize us, they will be disappointed. If they are hoping we will give up, they should reconsider the power of our persistence and our fury.”

 

Jennifer Levi, Transgender Rights Project Director at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)

“The reactionary policies of this administration have caused and will cause too many to suffer. But staying focused on the changes that our community, friends, and allies have so bravely brought about through our advocacy, our words, and our deeds, sustains me.  It informs my firm belief that the callousness of this administration is an aberration. We will persist, justice will win out, and this challenging moment will not define our country’s future.”

 

Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights

“This proposed policy is a heavy-handed attempt to strip federal legal protections from transgender people. It is part and parcel of this administration’s ongoing attempts to scapegoat vulnerable groups and to promote extremist policies rooted in stigma and stereotypes.

“The federal courts have interpreted sex discrimination laws broadly for decades in order to ensure that all forms of sex-based discrimination are prohibited, including discrimination against transgender people. This proposal is out of step with longstanding legal precedent and would create havoc in federal agencies, which are charged with enforcing the law and cannot simply disregard binding legal decisions.

“And no matter what this administration orders federal agencies to do, the courts still have the authority to interpret these laws and will continue to protect transgender people.

“We know that many in our community today heard this news and are afraid. We want to assure our transgender family members that NCLR and many other civil and human rights organizations will fight this policy and, just as important, will continue to advocate for transgender students, employees, health care patients and other transgender people. We have fought similar battles and won. We can and will defeat this together.”

 

Samy Nemir Olivares, Co-Founder of Queeramisú (Queer Leaders of Color for Equality)

“Transgender, non binary and intersex people, particularly of color, are at greater risk of discrimination and access to health care, housing and education. This latest attack is part of an orchestrated plan from the Trump administration to erase transgender and LGBTQ community from the law and roll back our civil rights by imposing its heteronormative, patriarchal agenda divorced from reality and science. Trans and GNC people of color would be greatly impacted by this erasure and the mere discussion in the public agenda create confusion and a threatening environment for one of the most vulnerable populations in the country.

“Language is powerful. It creates reality and also produces violence. But #WeWontBeErased because even they strip out the words of our community from documents, we will rise more powerfully and persist.

“They might get rid of the word, but they can’t get rid of our own existence.”

 

Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project

“When a young person hears that their existence and gender identity will not be recognized by their government, they hear that they are not worthy to be a part of that nation. Transgender youth seeing this report should know that they are not alone and that their identity is valid — nothing the government does can change that.

“These policy decisions have real-world consequences. The Trevor Project has seen a significant rise in contacts from young people who identify as transgender or non-binary over the last year, now making up over 30% of our total crisis volume. When government takes actions targeting the transgender community, our call volume spikes even higher. The administration’s choice to deny the reality of transgender lives is reckless and dangerous.

“Trevor will always be here to let LGBTQ youth know they are not alone, we will always fight to keep LGBTQ youth safe, and we are exploring options to push back against any policy decisions that tell LGBTQ youth they should not exist. And as always we will be available 24/7 for any and all LGBTQ youth in their moment of crisis.”

 

Daniel Ramos, Executive Director of One Colorado

“President Trump and his administration have targeted LGBTQ equality repeatedly, but this is the most heartless and cruel attack on the LGBTQ community by an American President we have seen in recent history. By rolling back legal recognition of transgender Americans, President Trump would have a country where discriminating against transgender people in the areas of health care access, employment, housing, and public accommodations is legal in every state. It is an affront to basic human decency and to the values of fairness and freedom we hold dear here in Colorado.

“Today’s article proves, more than ever, that LGBTQ equality is on the ballot this November. We are fortunate that here in Colorado, we have nondiscrimination protections for all, including transgender Coloradans. But that is not the case across the country. Here in Colorado, and in every state, we need to fight like hell and vote to elect pro-equality candidates who will stand up for transgender Americans and the entire LGBTQ community against the President’s hateful agenda.

“To transgender Coloradans and your families – we know you are scared, angry, and horrified by what this administration has done. We at One Colorado pledge today, and every day, we stand with you and we will always fight for you. This is not over.”

 

Stan Sloan, CEO of Family Equality Council

“This is a cruel, unnecessary attack on transgender Americans and their families that flies in the face of science, medical best practices, and the law. LGBTQ people and their families deserve to be protected from discrimination, yet this administration is signaling once again that it prioritizes extremist, religious anti-LGBTQ dogma over ensuring equal protection for all Americans under the law.”

 

Kiara St. James, Founder and CEO of New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG)

“Resilience has been written into our collective DNA. We will not be erased. We won’t go back to times of fear and punishment. Next year on April 1st, join us for a national march in D.C. to let this administration know that they won’t force us back to the shadows.

“We will fight and secure our rights. We are here to stay whether they like it or not. We will resist and we will win!”

 

Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California

“The Trump-Pence Administration’s heartless, coordinated attempts to erase the existence of transgender Americans illustrates just how low they’re willing to go for their radical political base. Seemingly not content with their attacks on transgender students and service members, the Administration has launched a full-scale war against millions of transgender and gender nonconforming people across our nation by proposing sweeping new regulations across our government that would require discrimination. But rest assured, medicine, science and the law are all on our side — not the Administration’s — and so are Californians, a majority of whom want our government to do more — not less — to support and protect our transgender family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors.

“As we’ve said before — and demonstrated in the courts and at the ballot box — we’re not going anywhere. The LGBTQ community and our allies stand united in defense of one another. We are strong and resilient. And we will stand together to defeat the Trump-Pence Administration’s agenda of hate and fear.”


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.

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