I’m a spouse, a parent to three amazing boys, a Navy veteran, and a 24-year professional in the pharmaceutical industry. I also happen to be transgender. But the Trump administration is now cooking up a scheme to pretend that I and nearly 1.4 million other transgender people don’t exist.
President Donald Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services is floating a memo that essentially seeks to erase transgender people under Title IX, a law that bars gender discrimination in educational programs. The document states in part: “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth . . . The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
The administration hopes to cement that definition across federal agencies to deny transgender people protection under the law, despite numerous federal court rulings that anti-transgender discrimination is sex discrimination.
I’m no stranger to the assaults on our transgender people. I lived in North Carolina when the state legislature voted to ban transgender people from using bathrooms that align with who we are. That galvanizing moment led me to open up about my own personal journey and speak out against the misinformation being used to perpetuate bias. I appeared in the first nationally aired transgender awareness ad, which featured me being denied the use of a women’s room. The ad was viewed more than 15 million times either online or when it aired on Fox News Channel immediately before Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
Trump’s election has brought an onslaught of assaults on transgender people, including attempts to ban openly transgender military service. As a former naval intelligence officer, I have repeatedly spoken out against this outrageous move. And not surprisingly, the federal courts are keeping the military ban at bay, yet the attacks keep coming, including this new attempt to define us out of existence. It’s ironic that Roger Severino, the man charged with looking out for civil rights at HHS, is working to remove rights from transgender Americans.
What’s driving the marginalization of transgender people and LGBTQ people is far-right fringe voices who have prominent seats at the White House table and the blessing of arguably the most anti-LGBTQ vice president in history, Mike Pence. Groups like the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Liberty Counsel (all identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center) would love nothing more than to have us disappear and live in a world that looks more like the 1950s. Legislation like North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill, the transgender military ban, and the new language introduced for Title IX come from the Family Research Council’s playbook, which first appeared online in 2015.
As much as these groups would like to do so, they cannot hold back the progress we have made and the strides we will make in the decades ahead. These actions are seen for what they are, blatant discrimination and bullying, and have only strengthened our resolve and harnessed the energy of our movement. The hashtag #WontBeErased is spreading by the day. I stand with my fellow transgender community members and allies in refusing to be rendered invisible. They may try to erase us and deny our humanity. They will not succeed.
We’ve come too far to let that happen, and the public is becoming wise to the hate behind the initiatives.
Alaina Kupec is a board co-chair of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, an organization that works to end discrimination and achieve equality for transgender people.