By Megan Valle and Lamia Choudhury
A Pride for Youth event held on Monday in Deer Park, gathered roughly 30 people from the LGBTQ+ community to rally against the latest Trump administration memo regarding rolling back protections for transgender people.
The call to action, held on Oct. 29th at the Pride for Youth Suffolk location, brought the LGBTQ+ community together to discuss plans and provide individuals a place to express their concerns. The leaked memo suggests re-defining the legal definition of sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”
“I’m still going to be as loud and proud as I am with being trans,” Jaylin Culkin, a 23- year- old transgender man from Centereach, New York said.
The issue of representation under the law isn’t the only thing the transgender community is worried about. Ravenna Coffey, a transgender woman from Long Island, said she is worried for her safety as her protection under the law is also in jeopardy.
“I was actually just discussing the ordering of mace or a knife over dinner,” Coffey said, “I’ve actually even been worrying about worst case scenarios like fleeing to Canada or Iceland or even fighting for my life.”
The definition put forward in the leaked memo, would limit the sex of a person to the genitalia they were born with and legally eliminate the identification of those who define themselves as transgender and gender-nonconforming. Individuals who have already changed their gender marker on legal documents would be at risk, too.
“This interpretation doesn’t provide a space for individuals who do not fit within stringent biological categories, intersex people, for example,” Nicole Elias, a professor of Public Administration at John Jay College, said.
This memo comes just 16 days before midterm elections when political tensions are already alarmingly high.
“The Trump administration dramatically ramped up its war on the civil rights of transgender people by announcing an ugly and divisive policy initiative, which would eradicate federal recognition of the 1.4 million transgender people in our country – effectively erasing transgender people in the eyes of federal law,” Perry Gershon, the Democratic Congressional candidate on Long Island said.
His opponent Lee Zeldin could not be reached for comment.
If the memo became official policy, it would roll-back the Obama administration’s policies that protect gender identity in schools, prisons, and homeless shelters, Mila Madison is the Executive Director of the Transgender Resource Center on Long Island, said. The policies recognized that there are other ways people identify besides male and female.
“They have already rescinded the Obama era protections that were in place, so we have been operating without them for some time now,” Madison said. “It could affect other documents such as social security cards. This also assumes that the proposed definitions are able to survive the legal process. There are already over a dozen federal court decisions that say discrimination on the basis of gender identity is the same as discrimination based on sex, so we will have to see how it ultimately plays out.”
This is not the first time the Trump administration has proposed a policy that has threatened the rights of transgender people. In the beginning of Trump’s presidency, the administration rescinded the Obama-era guidance to allow schools to let students use the bathroom consistent with the gender they identify with.
Then in October of 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed guidance that protected transgender workers from employment discrimination. President Trump has also signed a directive that would ban transgender people from joining the military, which was blocked by a federal court.
“Many LGBTQ+ groups have really felt like they’ve become pawns or a tool being used for the purposes of the midterms to either rally Trump’s base or alternatively on the left, rally against this proposal,” Elias said.