Leaked Memo from Trump/Pence Regime “Redefines” Transgender People Out of Existence

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In the United States today, the roughly 1.5 million transgender people are subjected to staggering levels of discrimination, harassment, violence, and outright murder.

A 2015 survey of 27,715 transgender people showed that:

  • Thirty percent of those working had been fired, lost a promotion, or experienced other workplace discrimination because they were transgender. Unemployment among trans people is 15 percent, triple the national rate. Twenty-nine percent live in poverty, two-and-a-half times the national rate. Nearly one-third have experienced homelessness.
  • Fifty-four percent of those who were out as transgender in school were verbally harassed (often by teachers or staff), 24 percent were physically attacked, and 13 percent were sexually assaulted. Seventeen percent left school before graduating because of mistreatment.
  • Thirty-nine percent experienced “serious psychological distress” in the month before taking the survey, and a stunning 40 percent have attempted suicide at some point in their life—nearly nine times the national rate.


  • At least 25 transgender people—mainly women of color—were murdered in 2017, according to the New York Times. And trans people widely report that it is part of “normal life” to be threatened with violence—or outright physically assaulted—while in public places.

Now, in an ominous development, on October 21, the New York Times reported on an internal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) memo that aims to strip transgender people of the minimal protections against discrimination that currently exist under federal law. This means that much of the above will now be considered legally “legitimate.” (DHHS is working to have this view adopted by the departments of Justice, Education, and Labor as well.)

The memo aims to do this by defining transgender people out of legal existence. It declares that “gender” means “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate ... unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence”—in other words, by whether an infant has male or female genitalia at birth.1

But transgender people do not identify as the gender that they are assigned.2 Often from a very early age, transgender folk think of themselves and seek to act and live as a different gender (or as no fixed/rigid gender), and find it crushing and suffocating to try to conform to their biologically assigned sex. In the face of the vicious discrimination, ridicule, and violence, which the statistics at the start of this article only begin to hint at, transgender people struggle to live, dress, and act as the gender they feel corresponds to who they really are, and often seek to transition to the gender they identify with through surgery and/or hormone treatments.

But the language of the new DHHS memo will make them legally nonexistent and unprotected by laws barring discrimination based on sex (like Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools). In doing so, it will give free rein to the institutional discrimination and bigotry that is already rampant.

But more than that, the Trump/Pence regime is trying to stamp the very lives and existence of trans people with the label: INVALID. It is trying to give a legal and scientific veneer to the idea that there is no such thing as transgender people, which really amounts to saying that transgender people are “unnatural” and “an aberration.” This flies in the face of the reality that not all humans fall into the binary categories of male and female, that there is a significant portion of people for whom this is not the case, and there is nothing “unnatural” about this whatsoever—nor do such people deserve the condemnation, stigmatization, humiliation, and outright legal discrimination that the government seems to be considering putting into effect.

In this way, the regime is basically codifying (embedding in the legal structures) and legitimizing the religious fanaticism of Christian fascists (like Vice President Mike Pence) who are at the core of the regime, who are driving to reorganize society on the basis of biblical law, and who want to revive Dark Ages views and treatment of LGBTQ people as a key part of that.

The stunningly ignorant and reactionary views of these forces were highlighted in a September 18 Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) article on some modest legal steps to respect transgender people in New York City. (CBN is a “news” network founded and run by Pat Robertson, a leading Christian fascist who once claimed on CBN that “people in the gay community” try to transmit HIV/AIDS to other people: “[T]hey’ll have a ring, and you shake hands and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger.... It’s ...the equivalent of murder.”)

This CBN article stated that trans people are part of an “agenda ... to erase gender distinctions to confuse the clear distinction that our Creator has given us between man and woman.” They declare transgender “a mental disorder.” They see themselves as waging “a war” against this: “Christians are becoming bold and are taking a stand. ‘There’s a big war going on up here,’ said [a Christian activist]. ‘We’re very upset. The rise is happening.’”

Seen from this perspective, the DHHS memo is not just a continuation, or even just an escalation, of the rampant dehumanization and discrimination that LGBTQ people have faced in the U.S. for decades and centuries. It is in fact a major step towards unleashing an all-out assault on the humanity and even the existence of gender non-conforming people—not just by “legal definition,” but in life-and-death terms.


1. In about one percent of births, both male and female genitalia are present, and doctors and/or parents are now compelled to “decide” which sex the child will be; sometimes surgery has to be done on the infant to make that sex assignment work. [back]

2. Whether people experience this conflict with their birth-assigned sex for physiological or psychological or social reasons, or some combination, is not settled. But what is settled is that tens of millions of people in the world do not fall neatly into these binary gender categories, and that trying to live as their assigned gender is a source of tremendous pain and misery. [back]


From the Points of Attention for the Revolution:

2 We fight for a world where ALL the chains are broken. Women, men, and differently gendered people are equals and comrades. We do not tolerate physically or verbally abusing women or treating them as sexual objects, nor do we tolerate insults or “jokes” about people’s gender or sexual orientation.


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