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LI gay rights advocate: Trump administration plan endangers transgender people

David Kilmnick, chief executive of the LGBT Network,

David Kilmnick, chief executive of the LGBT Network, at the lectern on Monday at the LGBT Network in Westbury, as Ashley Montessori of Holbrook and Zack Reyes of Huntington look on. Credit: Raychel Brightman

A Trump administration proposal to roll back protections for transgender people is a dangerous move that may lead to increased violence against them, a leading Long Island gay rights advocate said Monday.

David Kilmnick, chief executive of the LGBT Network, which operates in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, said: “What his administration is attempting to do, which is essentially to erase the transgender community from existence in our country, is another dangerous and shameful attack on the transgender community. And it’s not the first one.”

Kilmnick, speaking at a news conference in Woodbury, was responding to reports of an unreleased Trump administration memo that proposes a strict definition of gender based on a person’s genitalia at birth.

The Department of Health and Human Services is overseeing an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government funding, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The new definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable and determined by the genitalia a person is born with. Any dispute about one’s gender would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

Caitlin B. Oakley, a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services, said in a written statement, "We do not comment on alleged, leaked documents."

She said, however, that a court in December 2016 found an Obama administration regulation "overbroad and inconsistent" with the 1972 Title IX law, and that the order remains in effect as her agency reviews the issue.

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.

Kilmnick, who oversees one of the largest LGBT groups in the country, said the proposal — the latest by the Trump administration on transgenders — would reverse years of progress made under the Obama administration in protecting transgender people.

“Early this year the message was quite clear — discrimination will be legal, discrimination will be encouraged, and we are not going to do anything to protect our transgender Americans,” Kilmnick said.

Ashley Montessori, 23, of Holbrook, who is transgender, said she was shocked by the Trump proposal.

“This is absolutely deplorable,” Montesorri said. “I am a human being. I deserve as many rights as anyone else in this world.”

The proposal provoked immediate controversy around the county, with protests breaking out in front of the White House, and other groups saying they supported the administration.

The conservative NC Values Coalition in North Carolina said the administration was “clarifying what it means to be a man or a woman — it’s an immutable condition determined at birth by genitalia and biology.”

Kilmnick said he was concerned the proposal could incite violence against transgenders. He said his group is contacting local police and school resource officers.

The approximately 150,000 transgender youths ages 13 to 17 in the United States “will face unnecessary barriers to a safe education,” he said. “It is giving a message to our young people that you are not worthy. Your lives are not worthy. Who you are is not worthy. And that is a terrible message to send to any American.”

The transgender youths “need these protections probably more than any other student in school,” Kilmnick said.

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