Now the Trump Administration Is Trying to Erase Trans People at the United Nations

For the third time in less than a week, the Trump administration is attempting to erase transgender people in major policy decisions.

U.S. diplomats are reportedly lobbying to replace language alluding to gender identity at the United Nations with terminology affirming the White House’s belief gender is designated by birth. According to The Guardian, officials requested the phrase “gender-based violence” be swapped with “violence against women” in a sex trafficking report.

Representatives from the U.S. argue terminology which acknowledges the existence of trans people is “vague and politically correct language.”

As U.N. officials told The Guardian, the Trump administration believes such terms reflect “what it sees as an ‘ideology’ of treating gender as an individual choice rather than an unchangeable biological fact.”

“[T]his is going to be a battle in the coming weeks,” sources say.

In order to implement their preferred language, insiders note that U.S. diplomats would need to forge key alliances with representatives in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, which largely remain extremely conservative on LGBTQ rights.

Such a partnership might have at one time seemed unthinkable, but these countries have proven unlikely allies at the U.N. under Trump’s presidency.

Last year, America joined Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates in voting against a resolution condemning the death penalty for homosexuality. Same-sex activity is illegal in each of those nations, punishable with up to life imprisonment or even death.

Released on Wednesday evening, The Guardian report closely follows a pair of major blows against trans equality.

As the New York Times reported on Sunday, the White House is planning to issue a memo defining gender as an immutable biological fact. The policy is currently being drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and will sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ) by the end of the year.

If the DOJ signs off, it will be issued to the Departments of Labor and Education.

Just hours before the U.N. story dropped, news broke that the Justice Department issued an opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court that discrimination against trans workers does not violate federal law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers protections on the basis of characteristics like race, sex, and national origin.

The Obama administration issued a memo in December 2014 saying it considered “gender identity” to be synonymous with “sex.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Trans Equality, claimed the recent rollbacks are a part of a “broad strategy of erasing transgender people’s existence across the federal government.”

Keisling, however, predicted that respect and inclusion would prevail.

“While it’s infuriating they would behave in such an extreme and volatile manner at the United Nations, we are confident their prejudice will lose out to science, reason, and the ongoing fight for human rights,” she told The Guardian.

Update 10/25/2018:

An official from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations released the following statement to INTO

In no way is the United States attempting to exclude the protection of transgendered [sic] persons, or protection of any person, in any UN resolution. This Administration is against discrimination of any kind and is committed to inclusive, non-discriminatory, and integrated international development. That commitment is driven by the understanding that discrimination can and does affect a broad and diverse range of people, including LGBTI persons.  When certain parts of resolutions explicitly refer to issues affecting “women and girls,” our negotiators have suggested in several instances to change “gender” to “women” and/or “women and girls” to make the resolutions more accurate. 
 

Photo via Flickr/martin_vmorris

Additional reporting by Mary Emily O’Hara


Nico Lang

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

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