PORTLAND, Maine — Advocates and transgender Mainers on Tuesday vowed to fight plans by President Donald Trump’s administration to change the definition of gender to either male or female, unchangeable, as determined by the genitalia with which a person is born.
Charging Trump with a “calculated and heartless attack on transgender, nonbinary and intersex people,” advocates said the consequences of such a change would be dire for millions of people.
On Sunday, Maine native and transgender activist Nicole Maines, 21, now an actress in the television series “ Supergirl,” tweeted, “I’m scared.. but more so I am pissed. If they think we are going to lie down and let them tell us who we are they are wrong. We are a community of warriors. We are strong and resilient and they are no match for our truth. #WeWontBeErased #TransIsBeautiful #TransIsReal.”
Maines made history with her family in 2014, when they won a lawsuit against the Orono school district when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that transgender students have the right to use the school bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
The Trump administration’s new definition would affect how the Office of Civil Rights oversees Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination in educational programs receiving federal assistance, The Sunlight Foundation reported.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed establishing a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive financial assistance from the government, the New York Times reported.
In April, HHS said it would reverse a rule issued by former President Barack Obama that prevents doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies from discriminating against transgender people. Trump has already tried to ban transgender people from serving in the military, and the Education Department has reversed guidelines on how schools should accommodate transgender students.
Early this year, HHS removed language pertaining to sex discrimination protections, including mentions of “gender,” from its Office of Civil Rights website, the Sunlight Foundation reported.
The foundation reported that among other changes, 10 instances of the term “gender” were removed from phrases referring to “discrimination on the basis of … sex (gender)” on the OCR’s “Discrimination on the Basis of Sex” page.
“The Trump administration’s erasure of people’s gender identity is another way they are blatantly anti-science and anti-human rights,” said Leo Eichfield, 18, a transgender teen from Topsham. “If this proposition is to be accepted, it will be against countless studies and personal narratives illustrating the complexity and importance of what gender means, and is. Americans will be hurt. Americans most likely will be killed. This proposition is not for any betterment of our community; it is out of hate.”
“This is a hateful attack on the very existence of millions of Americans,” ACLU of Maine executive director Alison Beyea said in an email. “Transgender people are real and they have the right to exist. We will fight back against any efforts by politicians to do this type of harm.”
“Yet again, the Trump administration has made a calculated and heartless attack on transgender, nonbinary and intersex people,” said Gia Drew, program director at EqualityMaine. “By threatening to narrow the definitions of sex and gender into rigid parameters that neither reflect science or the lived experiences of millions of Americans, it is painfully clear that they are willing to disregard the very existence of members of the LGBTQ+ community in order to promote a narrow minded and backward point of view that is driven by ignorance and fear.”
“EqualityMaine has been working for nearly 35 years to ensure LGBTQ+ Mainers can live free from fear and discrimination in all aspects of their lives,” Drew continued. “And while life is not perfect here in Maine, we have fought long and hard for some of the strongest laws and policies in the country that protect and empower LGBTQ+ Mainers. No matter what happens in Washington, EqualityMaine is here to fight on behalf of our community’s dignity and respect, especially transgender, nonbinary and intersex people in Maine.”
While courts and school systems in Maine have set a progressive tone on transgender rights, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has been less supportive. In 2015 and earlier this year, LePage as an individual signed on to legal actions in other states designed to limit transgender people’s rights. In 2016, he joined a Virginia-based lawsuit about access to bathrooms. In August, he filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a lawsuit that would allow employers to fire transgender people based on their sexual orientation or gender identification.
Jennifer Finney Boylan, an author and former Colby College professor who lives part time in Belgrade Lakes, blasted the proposed changes in a Sunday New York Times column titled, “Trump Cannot Define Away My Existence.”
“I was surprised to learn on Sunday morning that I do not exist,” wrote Boylan, who now teaches at Barnard College in New York. “This will come as sad news to my children, to whom I’ve been a mother for over 20 years now. It will come as a shock to my wife, too, to whom I’ve been married for 30 years.”
In an email to The Bangor Daily News on Tuesday, Boylan wrote that she was “feeling more than a little worn down,” but noted in her column that she was “reluctant to react to this latest cruelty, which is obviously just one more cynical move clearly designed to stir the pot ahead of the election.”
Should the proposal come to pass, Boylan wrote, “President Trump and company … will be disappointed to find themselves — if they are men — standing in a men’s room with me. Even though I have breasts and a vagina and a clitoris (and I do thank you for asking), in the new world that they’re creating I’ll be right there in the boy’s room with them, checking my bra straps and putting on eyeliner — you know, because of the Y chromosome that they insist is the only gender marker that matters … Don’t like this world? Well, you could have left us alone.”
A “Won’t Be Erased” rally for transgender rights is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Portland’s Monument Square.
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