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OPINION: Why Trump’s gender policy is so cruel

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Opinion Editor Tim Zelina argues Trump’s recent attempts to redefine gender are a bigoted and senseless attack on the transgender community. 

America is facing a breadth of critical issues in need of solution, many of which will determine the social and economic fabric of our nation for generations. From managing climate change to determining the future of our relationship with key allies, the President has to manage his political capital carefully in choosing what to tackle.

Unfortunately for our nation, and even more unfortunately for the LGBT community, our President has decided to focus energy, time, and manpower on something he finds more pressing: the existence of transgender individuals.

Trump’s legal assaults on the transgender community are nothing new. Shortly after taking office, Trump, to the surprise of his military staff, announced a controversial and unnecessary measure to bar transgender people from serving in the armed forces.

But now the transgender community faces something more fundamentally dangerous than discrimination and harassment in the military. The New York Times reported Monday the Trump administration plans to institute a legal definition of gender as that assigned by doctors at the birth of a child.

Currently, in order to achieve a change in your legally defined gender, one has to go through the legal avenues available in their own state. The laws surrounding this vary state-to-state, from states like California that allow free and easy identification of gender, to states like Ohio that do not allow changing your assigned sex at all.

Under Trump’s plan, the only avenue for changing your gender on your birth certificate would be by submitting a genetic test proving the assignment was wrong.

This is a crippling blow to the the transgender legal regulations and protections the Obama administration pursued in the second half of his administration. By instituting such an extreme measure, Trump’s administration will in one broad sweep make many of Obama’s regulations and protections toothless and obsolete, since they depend heavily on changing your legal gender.

Trump’s attack on transgender individuals reflects the cruel focus on abusive identity politics by the GOP. There is very little reason for the GOP administration to target transgender individuals. They’re a micro-minority, comprising less than 1% of the population, and whether you agree with a trans person’s identity or not, their decision to transition does not affect you.

So for a party that laments identity politics and rallies against big government, these efforts may seem illogical. But from a Machiavellian perspective, Trump’s move makes sense, even if the rational behind it may be cruel and callous.

The Trump administration is deeply unpopular, and is poised to potentially lose their House majority, a significant legal and political peril for Trump. Trump’s attempts to reform healthcare failed spectacularly, and recent controversies surrounding Saudi Arabia have made his administration eager for some positive press.

In order to motivate a base that has not seen as much change as many anticipated, Trump has focused his efforts on easy wins against a historically oppressed population. By stoking the transphobia of his base, Trump is opening a new avenue for motivating voters to the polls.

The measure has attracted controversy beyond its sheer cruelty. There is irony in the measures to determine a scientific basis for the definition of gender. In attempting to weigh in on such a contentious issue, the Trump administration inadvertently defied scientific logic itself.

Sex is not easily determinable by a simple genetic test. Genetics are not a simple science, and countless variations can occur even in people who show no physical signs of uncertain sex. Trump is asking the government to lump variations like XXY and XXX into a black and white “Male or Female” box. In effect, Trump is asking the government to dictate unsettled science.

Regardless of the scientific value of Trump’s plan, this move is demoralizing for another reason. The assault against transgender people is an unfortunate consequence of the toxic political style of the Republican Party.

Though they were discriminated against legally and socially, transgender people never faced targeted political harassment until Obama moved to issue protections. The GOP saw this as an opportunity to drive another wedge between Democrats and socially conservative voters. Some of the most vulnerable members of society are now a focal point for the GOP to win elections campaigning on bigotry and hatred.

Trump’s announcement is just more bigoted identity politics typical of the GOP. Transgender people are just ordinary Americans who want to live regular lives. It’s already hard enough to handle the stress of gender dysphoria, does the government really need to add to the pain?

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