Donald Trump's War on Trans People

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, then Republican nominee Donald Trump (the liar) boasted that he would be an advocate for the LGBT community. In June of that year, he tweeted that he “will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.” In a now infamous image from a rally in Colorado, he can be seen proudly brandishing a rainbow flag with “LGBT for Trump” written across it in black marker. The shoddy pageantry elicited a whole host of different responses from LGBT people, from incredulity and laughter to naïve optimism. And while Trump’s failings have been numerous on all fronts, nothing could have prepared us for the news that came out on October 21st 2018.



Declaration of war

As initially reported by The New York Times: “the Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appears to be spearheading this effort, beginning with their removal of the term “gender” from their civil rights web page. This could very well stifle any ability to complain to the HHS directly if an individual’s rights are violated. In a broader sense, this change would remove protections for transgender people under U.S. civil rights laws in health care, schools, and the military.

When questioned about his campaign promise to protect LGBT people, Donald Trump (the liar) responded by saying: “I’m protecting everybody. I want to protect our country.”


Trump’s War on Trans People

It appears that the only promise that Trump (the liar) truly cares to keep is to undo the legislation of the previous administration. The Obama administration notably made a series of decisions to loosen the definition of gender in federal programs and recognized that gender is largely an individual’s choice as opposed to being determined by genitalia. Which was not only ethical allyship—it was also in line with commonly accepted Western science and medicine. The American Psychiatric Association and World Health Organization notably both recognize the existence of gender-based dysphoria and non-binary identities, and also acknowledge the importance of accepting these.

So not only is the proposed legislation ethically deplorable, as it opens the door for hate crimes and discrimination against trans individuals, it is also scientifically unsound. This will restrict access to health care and support that trans people desperately need.

I’m saying this as a trans person who is undergoing hormone reassignment therapy. It is so much more than a cosmetic change. The exact effects of hormone therapy can differ a bit from person to person, and I realize that my experience could differ from another trans person’s. But it has felt like wearing glasses for the first time for someone with astigmatism. Since starting HRT, I have been able to look at my body in the mirror and truly love it. There is a low hum of joy filling me up at all times. I sing and dance all the time for no reason because, no matter how hopeless a situation seems, I am still happy in a deep and indescribable way for the first time in my life. And if someone tried to take that away from me, there is no length I would not go to in order to stop them. I would rather be dead.


The shot heard ’round the World

Some people reading this might wonder why I, a Canadian who is not directly affected by this policy, would feel so strongly about this. Well, beyond a basic sense of empathy for the people who will be, I am still affected by it. This proposed legislation is levelling the barrel of a gun to fire the latest shot in a war against trans people.

Donald Trump (the liar) is the embodiment of a rallying cry for bigotry. He doesn’t need to openly fly Nazi colours or wear the hood of a Klansman, because the way that he conducts himself and the fact that he has not yet faced any consequences for it is enough to empower the people who do. Reported hate crimes in the U.S. have reached their highest level in over a decade. Half of all trans people report verbal harassment and 1 in 10 report physical violence, and if these changes go through, then I predict that that will only get worse. Groups like the Soldiers of Odin are already unafraid to show their true colours in public (Conrad Peach, the leader of the Vancouver Island chapter of SoO, ran for city council earlier this month, though he mercifully did not win). That is why seeing a politician who wants to debate the human rights of a marginalized and stigmatized group should be more than enough justification to shout them down and take away their soapbox. The very act of allowing them a place at the table to voice those bigoted beliefs legitimizes them and, in doing so, delegitimizes the marginalized group they are working against.

This is not a philosophical debate. It does not take place in a vacuum. Allowing those bigoted voices in is treating the situation like a high-stakes game of poker where people are the chips. And this is not a game. It is a war.


Here’s what you can do to support the troops

Over on Medium, Alex Petkanas compiled a list of links to different ways to support trans people directly. I’m going to include a link to that article and highlight several of them in particular here. Quotes from the two sections below are taken from their article.

Other ways to be a good ally include reaching out to check on your friends, making space for trans voices to be heard as well as using your own voice to speak out, and allowing us to be angry. I know it might seem like a good idea to try to comfort someone when they are agitated by telling them things are going to be okay, but this is not one of those times. And if you are a cisgender (not trans) ally and you have the energy to speak out against this bigotry, please do so. In fact, it is essential that you do, since bigots will never give the words of trans people equal weight to yours. That is how you can help us believe that things are going to be okay.

Things are going to be okay because we will not stop fighting. We will not go gentle into that good night. We won’t be erased.


Ways to Support Trans People

Donate to the Trans Lifeline here to support their hotline service.

Donate to the Trevor Project to support their hotline service, text line, and chat.

Donate to the Transgender Law Center to support legal needs of the trans community, including supporting those who are incarcerated and isolated.

Donate to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, another organization which provides legal services to the transgender community with a particular focus on people who are low-income, people of color, and/or immigrants.”


Support for Trans People

Trans Lifeline US: 877–565–8860 / Canada: 877–330–6366

Trevor Project Call 1–866–488–7386 / Text START to 678678 / Chat via their website

Crisis Text Line Text START to 741–741

National Suicide Prevention Hotline Call (800) 273–8255

LGBT National Hotline Call 1–888–843–4564”


Sources: 1/2/3