On October 21st, the New York Times obtained a memo of the Department of Health and Human Services that detailed the intent of the federal government to redefine gender as “an immutable characteristic determined by one’s genitalia at birth.” The move could potentially eliminate any federal recognition of transgender people in the United States.

The proposal out of the Department of Health and Human Services would target Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, by providing a legal definition of sex as only “male” or female” as unchangeable traits as determined by the genitalia at birth. The administration has advocated for similar provisions to be proposed across all government agencies, including the Departments of Education, Justice, and Labor.

Implications if approved

There are certainly many concerning risks if the federal government went forward with defining gender in this way. Such a move would drastically cut the protections afforded to transgender people. For instance, if this definition were to become part of Title IX, human rights violations against transgender and non-binary people would have a very hard time in court. Additionally, there is the potential that medical treatment for transgender people under Medicaid could be revoked. In the realm of education, students could be facing harmful bathroom policies, and archaic rules related to dress codes and pronouns. Trans and nonbinary people residing in governmental and agency facilities may not be placed in accordance with their gender identity.

What can we do?

While the current political climate seems bleak and frustrating, there is always something we can do. First, it is vital that we support one another. Whether that be attending a march or reaching out to a friend, kindness can go a long way. We must also stay informed! SAGE and the National Center for Transgender Equality provide explanations on current issues in addition to providing ways to get involved. Lastly, we can call or email our lawmakers and demand that they oppose these provisions.

Getting in contact with your legislators

Find your Senators here.

Find your Representatives here.

You may phone the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request


US Senator for Pennsylvania Bob Casey Jr.

Website: https://www.casey.senate.gov/contact/

Phone Numbers: 215-405-9660 (Philadelphia), 215-405-9660 (Washington, DC).


US Senator for Pennsylvania Pat Toomey

Website: https://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=contact

Phone Numbers: 215-241-1090 (Philadelphia), 202-224-4254 (Washington, DC).

Other Resources:

SAGE: https://www.facebook.com/SAGEUSA/  and https://www.sageusa.org/

National Center for Transgender Equality: https://transequality.org/

Transgender Law Center: https://transgenderlawcenter.org/

Mazzoni Center Trans Care: https://www.mazzonicenter.org/health-care/trans-care

New York Times: ‘Transgender’ could be defined out of Existence under Trump Administration


welTime: What Could Happen if the Federal Government Redefined Gender? http://time.com/5432091/gender-identity-transgender-hhs-memo/


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