On October 21, the New York Times reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is aiming to change the definition of gender. They assert that gender is determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”
This definition would mean that gender would be based on the genitals one was born with, essentially denying the existence of those who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming (GNC). This definition would reinforce the gender binary and would not acknowledge those who feel that the genitals they were born with do not reflect their actual gender identity. The HHS plans to require that genetic testing be used to settle any disputes about an individual’s gender.
This is not the first time the Trump administration has taken aim at the transgender community. In March, the administration announced that they would pursue a ban on transgender people serving in the military, despite four separate courts blocking the ban.
What Does This Mean for Teens?
The number of teens who identify as transgender or GNC is on the rise. In a study published in Pediatrics in February, a survey of all Minnesota teens in grades nine through eleven revealed that 2.7 percent of the population identified as either transgender or GNC. This percentage is up from one previously reported in a UCLA study, which estimated that .7 percent of teens identified as such.
A more restrictive definition of gender will lead to a rollback of rights that were hard-won during the Obama administration. The Trump administration has already overturned the guidelines that protected students using the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
As a result, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has stopped reviewing discrimination cases filed by transgender students with regard to school bathrooms. This new definition of gender would validate their approach.
Broader complaints of sexual discrimination at schools and colleges that receive federal assistance would also likely be dismissed, should this new gender definition take hold.
Transgender and GNC teens are already at a higher risk for intimate partner violence (IPV). A recent study from The Williams Institute puts rates of IPV at somewhere between 31.1 and 50 percent for transgender individuals, which is higher than rates for the general population.
As a group that is already vulnerable, creating further divides and rescinding support and protections for trans and GNC students could further threaten their safety and security, both at school and in their personal relationships.
What Can You Do to Get Involved?
If you’re concerned about this news coming out of Washington, now is the time to stand up and make your voice heard. There are a number of things you can do to support the LGBTQ community.
Donate To or Volunteer At Relevant Organizations
There are many great organizations out there offering support to the trans community, with some even specifically focused on trans youth. Organizations like Stonewall Youth, Trans Student Educational Resources, and The Trevor Project are a great place to start!
Get Involved in the Political Process
Midterm elections were earlier this week, and regardless of whether you voted this time around or not, there’s still a lot you can do now to play a more active role in effecting change in the political system.
The first step is finding out who your elected officials are, if you don’t already know. You can enter your zip code on the House of Representatives and Senate websites to find out who represents your neighborhood or state in Washington. Give them a call or write them a letter to voice your concern about LGBTQ issues, and ask them to support the cause.
Attending local political events is a great way to make change in your own backyard. Attending school board, town hall, or city council meetings and voicing your opinions on the topics at hand is how you make your voice heard. You might even want to consider serving on a local board.
Change that begins at the local level often blossoms into larger state or nationwide conversations, so there’s real value in getting involved with politics in your town, district, or city.
Learn About Day One’s LGBTQ Services
At Day One, we’re dedicated to educating all teens about healthy relationships, and to supporting those who are experiencing abuse or intimate partner violence. If you’re an educator or community leader, consider picking up our Know Your Rights Guide for LGBTQ Dating Abuse. If you know someone who is experiencing intimate partner violence, refer them to our website to take advantage of the services we provide, or have them call our confidential Helpline at 800.214.4150 or text (646) 535-DAY1 (3291).