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Trump Administration Unveils Downright Cruel Rollbacks on Transgender Health Care Protections

trans equality protest signs

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has issued a number of policy proposals designed to strip LGBTQ+ people of their rights. Earlier this month, they finalized rules allowing medical professionals to refuse care based on religious grounds. They’ve also made it possible for adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples and for homeless shelters to turn away transgender people.

Now, in a new proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services, the administration is attempting to undo Obama-era healthcare protections for LGBTQ+ people by changing the definition of what it means to discriminate “on the basis of sex.” Under the Affordable Care Act, healthcare providers are barred from discriminating against patients based on the definition of sex used in a variety of civil rights laws–most notably, Title IX, which protects against discrimination in educational institutions. Title IX not only includes biological sex in its definition of sex, but it protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual stereotyping.

It also protects against discrimination in regard to pregnancy or if a person has had an abortion, and that, too, is coming under attack. A new regulation states that “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require or prohibit any person, or public or private entity, to provide or pay for any benefit or service, including the use of facilities, related to an abortion.” It would reverse an existing regulation that bars discrimination in medical care or coverage over “termination of pregnancy.”

For years, the Trump administration has been promising to rewrite the definition of sex to only mean biological sex assigned at birth. This would allow medical or insurance providers to refuse hormones, surgery, or other forms of care to transgender people transitioning or, in theory, at any other time. To say that that is not sex-based discrimination lacks all common sense, since it is literally discriminating based on what sex that provider thinks the patient should be.

Another part of the 200-plus-page proposal invokes Title IX’s gender-based discrimination protections–by saying that allowing trans students into spaces like bathrooms and dressing rooms is sex discrimination against cis students.

The entire thing is a slap in the face to LGBTQ+ people and a dangerous plan to strip them of all civil rights. And I do mean all. This isn’t just limited to medical discrimination. A similar fight is happening over Title VII’s protections against workplace discrimination. There, too, the definition of “sex” is under threat of being rewritten through a number of lawsuits to only include biological sex assigned at birth.

The HHS proposal states that changing the definition “promotes consistent expectations and enforcement” and that’s definitely true. Whether they succeed in changing the definition as it relates to Title VII protections or Title IX (which isn’t set yet, and expect some lawsuits fighting to block the changes from taking effect), it will set a precedent for discrimination across the board.

Cis people, check in with your trans friends today. And if you’re able, take a moment to sign a petition from the Transgender Law Center opposing the rule. Your voice matters. (And remember, so does your vote.)

(via BuzzFeed News, image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.