According to a memo obtained by The New York Times, President Donald Trump’s administration is considering redefining gender to only encompass one’s sex assigned at birth, which would eliminate the federal recognition of transgender people. The plan sets out to reverse the Obama administration’s recognition of gender as an individual’s “internal sense of gender” and the anti-discrimination statutes adopted by federal agencies.
This new — or perhaps, more appropriately, old — definition of gender is a troubling example of the Trump administration’s policies and ideologies hurtling our society backward. Considering prior statements made by Vice President Mike Pence and Trump himself, the administration’s lack of concern for, or even recognition of, the LGBTQ community has been no secret. However, this is the first official policy or legislation that could be made to discriminate against and erase the identities of members of the community. This proposed legislative move should not be taken lightly, and we as both a campus community and a much larger national community should actively resist this redefinition.
Fortunately, transgender students at Ithaca College and at all other New York colleges will remain protected by New York education law Article 129-B, the Enough is Enough Law. This law allows students to identify as the gender of their choice at both private and public institutions. Additionally, Ithaca College Title IX Coordinator Linda Koenig said there are no plans to change gender protections for students regardless of the Trump administration’s decision. The upholding of these protections for our transgender students is a relief, and the college should remain resilient in its protection despite changes to federal law.
However, the protections put in place by the college and the state do not protect people outside the bubble of academia. The college has a nondiscriminatory policy regarding gender identities and multiple resources in place for transgender students, but these protective measures do not necessarily reflect the realities outside our institution.
The four or more years a student spends at the college can contribute to a student’s sense of validation or self-acceptance, and the significance of that should not be disregarded. However, this potential redefining raises questions: How can the college protect its transgender and nonbinary students? How can it protect them from and prepare them for a government that is indifferent and unsympathetic to their gender identity?
The college must remain steadfast in its support of the transgender and nonbinary community. The administration should make its rejection of this erasure of transgender people clear. Additionally, the college should dedicate resources to educating and supporting students in fighting back against oppressive federal legislation. This can come in many forms, but encouraging students to vote, protest and hold open dialogues with the campus community about discrimination against transgender people is a start.