A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access adorns the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C., May 3, 2016. 
Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

Trump admin eyes rolling back the clock on transgender rights

Civil rights for transgender Americans advanced during Barack Obama’s presidency. As NBC News explained over the weekend, during the Obama administration, “the legal concept of gender was less stringent in federal programs and allowed individuals for the most part to choose how they identified.”

According to a report from the New York Times, the Trump administration is eyeing a dramatic change that would more narrowly define gender “as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.”

[T]he Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

Though the Times’ reporting hasn’t been independently confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News, if it’s correct, the proposed change would “essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves – surgically or otherwise – as a gender other than the one they were born into.”

This comes on the heels of a series of related measures from the Trump administration that are designed to turn back the clock on the rights of LGBT Americans, including the president’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

All of which may come as a surprise to those who believed what Candidate Trump had to say before he was elected.

I was doing some Googling over the weekend and came across this  New York Times article from April 2016, right around the time Donald Trump was wrapping up the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. The headline read, “Donald Trump’s More Accepting Views on Gay Issues Set Him Apart in G.O.P.”

Readers were told at the time that while Republicans have opposed civil rights for LGBT Americans, Trump is “far more accepting of sexual minorities than his party’s leaders have been.”

It was an impression Trump seemed largely comfortable with, at least to the extent that he could exploit the dynamic for votes. As regular readers may recall, there was an odd point in the 2016 campaign, shortly after the Orlando nightclub massacre, in which the future president insisted that LGBT voters, en masse, should move to the right and vote Republican. Trump, in apparent seriousness, said he, not Hillary Clinton, would be the “better friend” of the “LBGT” [sic] community. Just two days after the Orlando shooting, Trump added, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you.”

Anthony Scaramucci, during his exceedingly brief stint as the White House’s communications director, declared last year that Trump “is most pro-LGBTQ rights [president] in history. Why’s that story not written in mainstream media?”

Yeah, it’s quite the mystery, isn’t it?

Donald Trump, HHS and Transgender

Trump admin eyes rolling back the clock on transgender rights