Laverne Cox, Chelsea Manning and more vow to fight Trump’s ‘hateful’ plan to legally erase trans people
Protests broke out in New York late on Sunday (October 21) after The New York Times revealed a leaked Department of Health and Human Services proposal which would make a person’s legal gender unchangeable from what is on their birth certificate.
LGBT+ rights groups and celebrities have formed part of a huge backlash to the news that President Donald Trump’s administration is considering erasing transgender people from official existence.
The memo, which would make it impossible to be trans or non-binary in the eyes of the federal government and destroy protections for trans people under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, sparked outrage and plans for further protests.
In a powerful Twitter thread, Orange is the New Black star and trans activist Laverne Cox told her followers: “We must not give up the fight.
“But in the face of this affront on my existence and the existence of my community I choose love not fear. We exist and always have.
“In indigenous cultures all over the world gender existed beyond the binary and folks who we would call trans today held sacred places in those cultures,” she continued. “Western colonialism drove those trans folks to the margins but we have always been here.”
“Marginalising trans folks is another example of the brutality of colonialism. This latest administration effort to legislate trans folks out of existence is yet another example of why the fight for gender equity must be intersectional and necessarily must include trans folks.
“Trans folks need everyone to stand with us in this fight, to let our government know this is not who we are.”
Chelsea Manning, another leading trans activist, wrote that “laws don’t determine our existence – *we* determine our existence – it’s our weapon, our shelter, our energy, our healer, our truth – we will keep moving forward – we will keep fighting – existence is *our* only law.”
Actress and producer Trace Lysette, who stars on Transparent, wrote: “Scary… I really don’t know what else to say except that we need your allyship now more than ever.”
Alexandra Billings, another Transparent actress and vocal trans advocate, wrote on Facebook: “I will not be erased. I will not be eradicated. And I am not a political pawn.
“I lived through the plague in the 80’s and buried my friends in a cloak of death and silence. I was diagnosed with AIDS a few years later and have Hep B and C and nearly died while I was in the hospital with a temperature of 104.”
She continued: “I have navigated my way through sex work, heroin, homelessness and male violence and privilege.
“And I’ll be damned if one small-minded man who’s pretending to be president, is going to attempt to annihilate everything I have been through, stood for and survived simply because he cannot face the facts of his insufferable and tragic presidency.”
Billings added: “We are loud and we are present, and no matter what happens with Mr Trump’s pathetic attempt to silence us, our history has proven, we are made of stronger stuff.
“I am here because of my historic Trans sisters and brothers, and all those who fit under that beautiful umbrella. And no law can ever change that.
“Here I stand. And here I will remain.”
Kirsten Gillibrand, a US Senator and potential Democratic presidential candidate, wrote: “The Trump administration once again displays their boundless cruelty by proposing yet another terrible, discriminatory policy.
“I want all transgender Americans to know that we will not let anyone erase you. We see you, and we will fight this.”
Cameron Esposito, a lesbian stand-up comic, said: “Reminder: no trans person’s gender expression has ever hurt anyone in a bathroom or anywhere.
“Anti-trans measures cause violence, entrench patriarchy & pain. I am w/ my trans family members. ALWAYS.”
Jonathan Van Ness, one of the Queer Eye‘s fab five, tweeted: “#TransRightsAreHumanRights & they won’t be erased.”
Several pro-LGBT+ organisations including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Centre for Transgender Equality are planning to lead a protest march to the White House on Monday (October 22).
HRC President Chad Griffin condemned the proposed policy overhaul as “destructive,” adding that it would “eviscerate enforcement of non-discrimination laws.
“Defining ‘sex’ in this narrow language tailored to the talking points of anti-equality extremists is part of a deliberate strategy to eliminate federal protections for LGBTQ people.
“This is a direct attack on the fundamental equality of LGBTQ people and, if this administration refuses to reverse course, Congress must immediately take action by advancing the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ people are explicitly protected by our nation’s civil rights laws.”
The HRC outlined how the law change could lead to trans people being denied healthcare, both transition-related and not, and queer citizens being legally refused government services.
Lambda Legal, which is also set to participate in the march, has tweeted: “Transgender folks: You are valid. You matter. You are loved.
“We will not stop fighting for your rights and you #WontBeErased by this heartless administration. #TransRightsAreHumanRights.”
James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said that the administration’s plan was “an attack on the very lives and existence of transgender people. It is painful, it is hateful, and it will not go unchallenged.
“Transgender people have the right to not only exist, but to fully participate in public life. Transgender people are real and transgender lives have meaning.”
Esseks also threatened legal action against the government if it moves forwards with its “hateful and hurtful policies,” promising that it will “be met with opposition in courts and in communities.
“More and more courts are seeing that policies targeting transgender people have no place in our country. The ACLU will fight back against any efforts to use transgender people as political pawns and continue to seek full equality for transgender and non-binary people.”
The National Centre for Lesbian Rights’ legal director Shannon Minter said: “This proposed policy is a heavy-handed attempt to strip federal legal protections from transgender people.
“It is part and parcel of this administration’s ongoing attempts to scapegoat vulnerable groups and to promote extremist policies rooted in stigma and stereotypes.”
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He explained: “The federal courts have interpreted sex discrimination laws broadly for decades in order to ensure that all forms of sex-based discrimination are prohibited, including discrimination against transgender people.
“This proposal is out of step with longstanding legal precedent and would create havoc in federal agencies, which are charged with enforcing the law and cannot simply disregard binding legal decisions.
“And no matter what this administration orders federal agencies to do, the courts still have the authority to interpret these laws and will continue to protect transgender people.”
Minter added that for anyone who was understandably afraid at this news, his group would continue to fight for trans rights, adding: “We have fought similar battles and won. We can and will defeat this together.”