GLAAD President Calls Transgender Policy Proposal a 'Civil Rights Crisis'

Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
October 23, 2018
Updated 4mo ago

By Max Godnick

The Trump administration has declared it may change the legal definition of gender, but GLAAD's president and CEO thinks that whatever the White House decides, the damage has already been done.

"[Transgender people] carry a disproportionate amount of trials and tribulations as a community," Sarah Kate Ellis said Tuesday in an interview with Cheddar.

"Merely trying to say that you're trying to write them out and erase them already builds on those stereotypes, that stigma that they live with on a daily basis."

The New York Times reported Sunday that the Department of Health and Human Services is considering basing the definition of sex on a person's genitalia at birth. In a memo obtained by The Times, the agency proposed a new definition of gender that would rely "on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective, and administratable."

Ellis described the proposal as a "civil rights crisis" that threatens to virtually eliminate one of the country's most marginalized communities.

"Essentially it says you don't exist, you don't matter, and you won't be covered or protected," she said.

If approved, the policy would roll back Obama-era decisions that re-framed the understanding of gender as a matter of independent choice that can occur after birth. The new definition would upend the legal status of the 1.4 million Americans who identify with a different gender than the one they were born with.

On Monday, President Trump respondedto the report, confirming that his administration is exploring "a lot of different concepts right now."

Ellis said such a move lacks both a precedent and a proper catalyst.

"It's a solution looking for a problem," she said. "There was no inciting incident, nothing happened."

It did not take long for GLAAD to mobilize in response to the news, organizing protests in New York City and Washington, D.C., in the days following the report.

The hashtag #WontBeErased started trending on Twitter shortly after the Times published its story as organizers arrange more rallies across the country.

Ellis is hopeful that activism may be enough to stop the proposal from enactment.

"If we push back and we're loud enough now, maybe it won't ever come to be," she said.

President Trump has responded to the outrage by insisting his priority is ensuring the safety of Americans, saying, "I want to protect our country."

But Ellis sees things differently.

"I think when you don't protect the most marginalized in the country, you're not protecting the country," she said.

For full interview click here.