New Attacks on Transgender Rights Bring Urgency to This Transgender Day of Remembrance
Tuesday marks the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a nearly two-decades-old memorial day for trans victims of homicide. In 2018 alone, more than 20 trans people, mostly trans women of color, have been murdered in the United States, according to GLAAD. At least 29 trans people were killed last year, according to a Human Rights Campaign report.
Trans people, and especially trans women of color, are at much higher risk of being murdered than the rest of the population. According to the ACLU, such deadly attacks have hit record highs in recent years. As trans people and their allies mark the lives lost to anti-trans violence, recent political assaults on transgender rights in the US and abroad give their plight a heightened urgency.
Though the Trump administration has lifted its controversial ban on trans people in the military under court order, the New York Times reported just last month that the administration is seeking to remove transgender people of their official recognition altogether.
The Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly moving to establish a legal definition of gender under Title IX, the federal law that protects against gender discrimination in publicly funded educational institutions. An internal government memo indicated that the proposed change would make it impossible for individuals to be legally recognized as any gender other than the one corresponding to the sex they were assigned at birth.
The change has not yet been made, and the Department of Health and Human Services has not offered further comment on its intentions. But the memo has trans and gender non-conforming individuals, and activists, concerned. If this change to Title IX were to pass, it would put trans people at even higher risks for violence, marginalize them further from adequate health care, and exacerbate already widespread workplace discrimination against them.
In addition to the potential Title IX amendment, the Department of Health and Human Services made changes this January that protect doctors who do not treat transgender patients, so long as the doctors claim that their discrimination is based on their religion. When the new HHS rule was announced, the Transgender Law Center released a statement saying the rule “grants an illegal license to discriminate against transgender people who come to the doctor or emergency room for help when our lives are in danger due to sickness, violence, or injury. It’s also an attack against all people, including many in the transgender community, who rely on critical care ranging from reproductive services to emergency services to HIV medication.”
The addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is also a threat to transgender rights. Like many cisgender women, many trans and intersex people also require abortion services and other forms of reproductive care. Amnesty International notes that marginalized communities, including trans and intersex people, are typically hit first and hardest by crackdowns on abortion rights.
Unfortunately, trans people are also facing increased discrimination in Canada. Ontario’s right-wing Progressive Conservative Party passed a resolution just last week to debate whether or not it will officially recognize the identities of trans people. Alarmingly, the PC Party is the majority party in Ontario — the most populous province in the country. Trans rights activists in Canada have correctly pointed out that a debate over the existence of trans people violates Ontario’s human rights laws, and is a mass affront to the safety and well-being of transgender Canadians.
As we all remember trans lives lost to bigoted violence in the last year, it’s important for those who support trans rights to keep in mind all the ways political institutions fail to protect trans people and, in fact, put them at further risk — and to speak loudly in defense of transgender rights and well-being.
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(Photo via Spencer Platt/Getty Images + Getty Images)