I was returning from a trip to Orlando, Florida over the weekend when I saw the news about the Trump administration’s plans to take away federal protections for trans and gender non-conforming people. It didn’t surprise me. Despite campaigning as an ally to the LGBTQ community, President Donald Trump has proved to be anything but.
The New York Times reported, based on a leaked memo, that the Trump administration aims to redefine sex as “either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.” The words in the memo contrasted sharply with the overall experience of the weekend I had just spent in Orlando, where I was wrapping up the final major USSSA tournament of the year for slowpitch softball. The coed major pits some of the best men and women in the country against each other in a casual, yet fairly competitive setting. My team, called Beauties and Beasts and based out of Long Island, New York, has two trans athletes, including myself, on the roster. We’ve been welcomed by fellow members and the sponsor with open arms.
Transgender athletes have been somewhat of a controversy in the sporting community. There are people who think we are merely playing a role to gain an advantage in sports. There are people who think we shouldn’t be allowed to play as female because we were born male and some of us went through puberty before we transitioned. And there are people who think that being trans is a mental illness.
Over the summer, the World Health Organization (WHO) reclassified transgenderism as a sexual health condition, a move that can help destigmatize the transgender community and allow trans people access to necessary health interventions. Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing that level of acceptance or championing of our cause from the leadership in the United States.
The Trump administration’s track record for transgender protections is abysmal. Last summer, Trump sought to ban transgender troops from serving in our military and was met with strong opposition from transgender people and their allies, as well as an onslaught of litigation. While the 2016 policy to allow trans people to serve in the military is still in place, Trump has remained steadfast in his goal to alienate trans people who are willing to put their lives on the line to defend America. He defended the ban by falsely claiming that the military would incur “tremendous medical costs” by allowing trans people to serve. Nevermind that the military covers Viagra to the tune of more than $41 million a year.
In April 2018, Trump tried to allow doctors, hospitals, and insurance providers to discriminate against transgender people. The move was especially dangerous given the realities trans people face everyday. Attempted suicide rates among transgender people (41 percent) are significantly higher than the general population (4.6 percent). A recent study found that attempted suicide rates among transgender male teens is shockingly high, at 51 percent.
In February 2018, the Education Department confirmed that it would no longer investigate claims from transgender students who are banned from using the school bathrooms that align with their gender identity, rescinding an Obama-era guidance that found such bans to be a form of sex discrimination. The decision sparked outrage from the LGBTQ advocates. Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality called the move a “mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school.”
In 2017, the Justice Department got rid of an Obama administration memo that protected transgender workers from discrimination. On top of that, almost one-third of Trump’s judicial nominees have anti-LGBTQ records. And time and time again, Trump’s Justice Department has taken anti-LGBTQ stances in various cases, including North Carolina’s notorious “bathroom bill,” which would have prevented trans people from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender identity.
Trump ran on a platform of being the first pro-LGBTQ (yes, he added the “Q”) Republican presidential candidate and even managed to be kind in April 2016 when he was asked about trans people using the bathroom of their choice, telling the questioner, “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble.”
But Trump’s presidency is riddled with examples of anti-LGBTQ policy, rhetoric, and actions that have harmed the transgender community. The latest memo, while dangerous, is unsurprising to trans people like me, who have felt consistently brutalized by this administration, as it willingly and knowingly denies us our humanity. It has been hard to grasp how someone could have so much hate for other human beings without knowing their story or why they live their lives the way they do, but that is seemingly the mission operative for Trump and his administration.
Jamie Neal is an avid sports fan and athlete who still competes in sports. Her favorite color is glitter, she wants you to remember that 2 is not a winner and 3 nobody remembers, and she flips bats better than Bret Boone.