In a new memo from the Trump administration, the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to legally define sex as biological under Title IX, which prevents gender-based discrimination. It states that the government needs to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” It would define gender as male or female, based on genitalia recorded at birth, and any individual's dispute about their gender would require genetic testing.
Social media has been consumed in outrage over the memo, as LGBTQ people and allies are calling out this administration's latest act of transphobia. Voices4 and Lambda Legal are organizing a "Hell No to the Memo" rally in support of trans and GNC rights, which will take place in New York on Sunday night. But there's more to this battle than just showing up.
Chase Strangio of the ACLU has compiled a list of action items that anyone in support of trans and GNC people should acknowledge. From voting to raising awareness among cis friends and supporting trans journalists, this is an essential checklist for trans rights.
Bring Attention to YES ON 3 in Massachusetts. There’s a ballot initiative coming to a vote on November 6 in Massachusetts that would repeal protections for transgender and nonbinary people in public accommodations. This is the first statewide vote to strip trans people of their rights ever — and it would take away protections won in the legislature after decades of fighting to explicitly extend these protections to trans people.
Action item: Call your Massachusetts friends and tell them to “VOTE YES ON 3!” Raise the public profile of this ballot initiative by signal boosting on social media and make sure you include the words, “VOTE YES ON 3 to SUPPORT EQUALITY." Hyperlink, visit, and donate to FreedomMassachusetts.org. Use the hashtag, #YesOn3.
Get out the vote. We know there are a lot of feelings about voting in general, but let’s put it this way: Voting at the state and local level is especially helpful to trans liberation because: The midterm elections (this year) aren’t just about Congress, it’s also about state legislatures, state courts, city council races, and local school board elections. Today’s Trump memo didn’t come out of nowhere, it is the work of our opponents at every level of government — they worked locally, and we have to also.
Action item: Visit vote.org for more information on getting out the vote in your area. Organize your friends and family to vote with you. Provide a ride or money for rides to the polls. Call friends and family in key swing states to encourage them to vote.
Action item: Spread the word about trans candidates: Amelia Marquez (MO), Brianna Titone (CO), Danielle Skidmore (TX), Christine Halquist (VT), Lasia Casil (Guam), etc.
Contribute to trans-led organizations. Many of our most prominent national organizations are not led by trans or nonbinary people, and therefore do not always prioritize these fights in the ways or with the resources they deserve. You can find trans-led organizations at both the national and local level (this is just a sample list).
Action item: Donate (time or money), follow, and signal boost organizations like: Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Audre Lorde Project, Casa Ruby, FIERCE, Trans Latin@ Coalition, Trans Lifeline, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Southerners on New Ground, Organizacion Latina de Trans En Texas (OLTT), Trans Law Center. For more comprehensive lists, visit: Trans Justice Funding Project and Borealis Philanthropy’s Fund for Trans Generations.
Contribute to bailout funds. So much of this kind of systemic discrimination means that trans people, especially those of color, are policed and incarcerated. We must join mass bailouts to get our community back onto the streets to fight with us — and so we can fight for them.
Action item: Donate to bailout funds like: Bronx Freedom Fund, The Lorena Borjas Community Fund, Massachusetts Bail Fund, Chicago Bail Fund, Tranzmission Prison Project, TGIJP.
Attention, cis folks: Call your people and have conversations. Ask your friends to share articles or videos written or produced by trans people, so we can boost their messages. Educate yourself to make sure you’re challenging the notion that there is a binary and coherent notion of “biological sex." Make sure your family understands that trans liberation is an integral part of the LGBTQ+ community, and supporting gay marriage was just one facet of LGBTQ+ equality.
Action item: Call or text three cis people in your life about a measure they can take to support trans people.
Pay attention to the notice and comment periods on proposed federal regulations. Many proposed changes to federal regulations, like the one written about in today’s New York Times, have to go through something called “notice and comment.” So, through mail, people are able to say what they think about a federal rule. This is a huge opportunity for citizen engagement, because even if it doesn’t impact the administration’s decision, it will be easier for pro-LGBTQ+ organizations to argue in court that the measure is discriminatory.
Action item: Follow legal organizations (like LAMBDA Legal, the ACLU, and Transgender Law Center) for updates on when you’re able to weigh in. They will give you templatized talking points and instructions for your convenience. For this measure, we expect the comment period to be in the next two months.
Support trans and nonbinary journalists, and make sure our major newspapers and media outlets are doing the same. Today’s New York Times article was written by cis people and quotes almost entirely cis people. It also says that the Obama administration “loosened” the concept of gender, which is false: The Obama administration merely promulgated regulations and guidance regarding the meaning of sex under federal law that was consistent with what the courts have been saying for years. Prohibitions on sex discrimination cover trans and GNC people. By stating the Obama administration “loosened” the definition of gender, the Times actually plays into the hands of the GOP and anti-trans activists, who seek to weaponize a misleading notion of biology to contrast it with what they position as a fraudulent and subject concept of gender identity. The reality is that sex includes many things, and prohibitions on sex discrimination include trans people. Adopting the framing of "biological sex" versus "gender identity" plays right into the hands of anti-trans activists, and a trans reporter would’ve caught that.
Action item: Follow trans journalists and signal-boost their work or sign up for their newsletters. And when you see articles about trans people appearing in mainstream media, hold them accountable by asking why a trans person didn’t write or appear in the piece.
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