Statement by Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong on an announcement that the Trump Administration is considering a proposal that would narrowly define gender based on genitalia at birth in order to take away recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law:
"In 1982, Audre Lorde delivered a speech in entitled, 'Learning from the 60s' where she so eloquently stated one of her most prolific quotes. She said, '
If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.' In light of the Trump Administration's consideration of proposal that would essentially strip transgender people of their ability to define themselves for themselves, this quote is even more real today than it was 36 years ago.
The right to determine our gender and express ourselves is both basic and profound. It is our human right and a key principle of reproductive justice to be able to define who we are and to be treated with respect and dignity, and yet transgender and gender non-conforming people face widespread discrimination in every area of their lives.
We know that the work to ensure transgender equality is an integral piece of our efforts to end reproductive oppression and advance reproductive justice and liberation.
Transgender young people are denied equal opportunity in schools. Transgender people lose their jobs and are thrown out of their homes. They are harassed and harmed in public spaces and medical offices. And transgender women of color lose their lives at alarming rates. Nationally, the New York City Anti-Violence Project counted 27 'hate-violence related' homicides of transgender and gender-nonconforming people in 2017, up from 19 reports in 2016. Of those 27 homicides, 22 were of transgender women of color. This violence and hatred is the worst for people living at the intersection of bias and hate against the transgender community and structural racism. Transgender people of color face an epidemic level of discrimination and live in danger and extreme poverty.
Gains have been made in recent years, but the Trump Administration has worked to roll back that progress at every turn throughout different levels and areas of the government. They adopted a Department of Justice policy pushing transgender people in federal prisons into facilities that do not match their gender and put them at risk, pushed a discriminatory ban on transgender military service members, rolled back protections for transgender students under the Department of Education, and proposed a Department of Health and Human Services rule that encourages religious refusals of health services for transgender people.
Now they are pushing a proposal that would define sex under federal law in such a rigid way as to take away all rights and protections for the more than one million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves through surgery or other programs, policies or opportunities - as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. They are essentially attempting to erase transgender people through this insidious and malicious move. It would also threaten the position of people who are intersex or other instances where people's biological sex may not match their gender. It also pushes a rigid definition of gender that undermines our basic ability to define and express ourselves.
Immediately after this announcement, transgender and gender non-conforming people began sharing their stories and standing defiantly in their own power proclaiming that they #WontBeErased. It was heartening to see the support of cisgender people joining our trans brothers and sisters in speaking out to make it clear we will not simply watch as hard won progress is rolled back and the dignity and identity of transgender people is undermined in this administration's relentless attack on LGBT equality and liberation.
But our transgender and gender non-conforming friends, loved ones and neighbors need more than our words. They need us to take action.
Many people see the riots at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 as the birth of the modern movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. That moment - a riot, a protest, an amazing and beautiful rising up of people pushed to the margins for too long - was started and led by transgender women of color and self-identified drag queens who were tired of being hurt by people in their communities and who had nowhere to turn in a system that pushed them down came together and resisted.
We owe so many of the rights that we have today to those women. We are grateful to them. We honor their courage and their sacrifice by continuing their work to stand with and follow the lead of transgender women of color who are fighting not just for their human rights, but who are fighting for their lives.
There will be a public comment period on these proposed rules when they're formally published. We will support our network in making their voices heard through this process. In the meantime, we urge you to get loud. Make sure the transgender and gender non-conforming people in your life know that you are there to listen and care and be with them. If this is new language for you, take the time to educate yourself, so you can be an effective ally.
We must open the doors of our movements wider and make space and opportunities for the leadership of transgender people. Give your time or money to an organization led by trans people. Get out and vote to shape who gets to make the policies. Whatever you can do, find an action that you can take. Words just are not enough.
As a collective dedicated to reproductive justice, we know that this is our fight, too. Gender justice and transgender liberation IS reproductive justice!
We are ready to follow the lead of our transgender friends and partners and to stand by their side each step of the way as we work together to put a stop to this cruel and callous proposal."