An update on transgender rights and policy change

We recently wrote a blog post in August about how anti-discrimination federal rules that required insurance plans to cover preventive services for transgender and gender non-conforming youth were in discussion to be removed. Further reports of potential federal policy change have been discussed since then, that will affect millions of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the U.S.

Just last week, the Justice Department informed the Supreme Court that employers can discriminate against their employees based on their gender identity. A recent report also states that the Department of Health and Human Services is considering defining gender as, according to the New York Times, a “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth”. In the past, “sex” was understood to be defined on the basis of chromosomal makeup, while gender was defined by the individual in how they choose to identify. However, experts repeatedly state how the terms gender and sex are not interchangeable, and how both are not necessarily defined by biology. Both sex and gender are non-binary and can be modified, which the proposed definition fails to address.

These proposed policy changes have been part of a string of federal actions that have affected many transgender and gender non-conforming Americans, who comprise about 1.4 million of the U.S. population. For instance, guidelines that “protected transgender students who wanted to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity” were removed in February 2017, thus effectively discarding reported cases of discrimination in educational environments by gender expansive children and youth.

Among these alterations in practice, the recently federal policy proposals and changes in defining ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ have reverberating effects beyond the federal level. CNN reports how changes in the definition may exclude many transgender and gender non-conforming Americans from seeking civil rights protections when discriminated against. In addition, many gender expansive youth and their families feel anxious and unsure of how such a policy change will affect name and gender changes on birth certificates and other ID documents, and subsequently their identity at school, work, or other legal and social institutions. With these recent federal proposals, many civil rights groups are hoping to challenge how the U.S. stands on discrimination against gender diverse individuals.