A protest movement mobilised around the hashtag #WontBeErased has sprung up in response to a leaked Trump administration memo that proposed to strictly define a person's gender based on the genitals they are born with.
The memo was widely seen as an attempt to deny the identity of transgender people and has been strongly criticised by LGBT activists.
A protest consisting of a few hundred people took place outside the White House on Monday 22 October following another quickly-arranged protest in New York on the previous evening.
Protesters chanted the phrase “We will not be erased” and urged people to vote on the issue in the upcoming November mid-term elections.
The #WontBeErased hashtag is currently trending internationally on social media.
Within hours, the hashtag #WontBeErased circulated on social media. By Sunday evening, a rally for transgender rights took place in New York; another was planned for Monday in Washington. https://t.co/pafTrk8nYL
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 22, 2018
What does the leaked memo on defining gender say?
The proposal in the memo seen by The New York Times would establish a new legal definition of sex under Title IX, a fundamental civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on gender in any education program that receives government funding.
The new definition would define sex exclusively as either male or female. There would be no capacity for an individual to change genders throughout their life and their gender category would be based solely on the genitalia they were born with.
It seeks to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable”. In the event of a dispute over a person’s gender, genetic testing would be used.
“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,” the memo said.
A 2016 study estimated that 1.4 million Americans identify as a gender other than the one they were originally assigned.
The Department of Health and Human Services have declined to comment publicly on the leaked memo.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 22, 2018
Human rights advocates have condemned the memo
California Senator Kamala Harris slammed the idea as “Another needlessly cruel proposal by the Trump Administration”.
Lady Gaga was another to enter the debate, writing on Twitter: “This is another display of leadership being driven by ignorance”.
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) October 22, 2018
Advocacy body National Gender for Transgender Equality issued a statement through its Executive Director Mara Keisling.
“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,” it began.
“This transparent political attack will not succeed administratively, legally, or morally.”
I wrote this up for NBC News: The Trump administration thinks they can erase transgender people with a memo, but they’re wrong. We do not need permission from the state to be ourselves. We #WontBeErased. We will fight them and we will win. https://t.co/fPepGHfJUL
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) October 22, 2018
Writing for NBC News, Evan Greer wrote the proposal “would attempt to tell us that, legally, we don’t exist — that in the eyes of the state, we are not ourselves.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin also released a statement opposing the plan. “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,” Griffin wrote.
Trump had previously tried to ban certain transgender people from serving in the US military but the policy was rejected at District Court level.