WASHINTON, D.C. — There may be fear about what could happen if the Trump administration implements its uniform ban on recognizing transgender people according to their gender identity, but it was not on display at Monday’s rally White House.
Organized to respond to the administration’s draft memo reported by the New York Times Sunday, the rally included more than 150 participants and highlighted a wide range civil rights organizations standing in solidarity with the transgender community.
“I’m outraged — and we’re going to beat them,” said Mara Keisling, head of the National Center for Transgender Equality, which organized the “We Won’t Be Erased” rally. She told ThinkProgress that she hopes rallies like this one and one Sunday night in New York City will show transgender people across the country that they’re not alone.
“The entire United States civil rights and human rights community is standing up with us,” she explained without hyperbole, noting the diverse array of speakers who participated in the rally.
Keisling encouraged those who want to show their support to vote and to keep speaking out. Presumably, implementing the policy would require the administration to go through a “notice and comment” period, and when that happens, she hopes trans people will tell their personal stories.
The drafted memo lays out a plan to create a uniform policy across the federal government that would narrowly define sex according to one’s genitals at birth. It even proposes genetic testing to determine whether people should be placed in the category of “male” or “female.” In short, it literally erases any recognition of transgender people’s identities under the law and any nondiscrimination protection that might be afforded to them.
One of the organizations on hand for the rally was Planned Parenthood. Erica Sackin, the group’s Director of Political Communications, told ThinkProgress that the proposed policy has “ramifications for absolutely everyone.” Planned Parenthood is one of the largest providers of transgender health care in the country, with affiliates in 23 states now offering gender-affirming hormone therapy.
“There is no situation in which the government should be defining our gender,” Sackin insisted. “This isn’t what most Americans want.”
Even with such short notice, the rally attracted a fair number of allies as well. Samantha Pulido and Julie Appelstein were two American University students who came out to show their support, complete with their own homemade signs. For Appelstein, the cause was personal because she identifies as a lesbian. “It’s important to stand with the LGBTQ community,” she explained. “Our rights are always at risk.”
Pulido resented that Trump marketed himself as an LGBTQ ally, waving the rainbow flag at a rally, but then has only undermined LGBTQ rights since in office. She wants transgender people to know, “You’re valid. You’re people. We respect you for who you are. We feel what you’re feeling.” Both students also echoed the importance of voting.
Rally participant John Toner hadn’t even read the Times article about the memo, but he heard there was a rally for LGBTQ equality and that was enough for him to show up. “I believe in equality, I’m retired, and I live near by,” he said of his reasons for being there. “I’m not trans, I don’t know anyone who is as far as I know, but I believe in equal rights.”
The overall theme of the rally was resilience and strength. Transgender people will not cower in the shadows, and they do not stand alone.
“I’m glad I can be here to represent the 1.5 million transgender people who can’t come today,” said Hilary Howes. As a transgender woman, Howes has fought for equality for a quarter-century, including serving on the board of Gender Rights Maryland. “Take heart! We’ve always existed, we’ve been illegal before, and these lies won’t stop us,” she told ThinkProgress.
Howes is optimistic the community can withstand this new attack. But her guard is up too. “I’m still going to carry my passport,” she quipped, inferring that someday soon her gender might no longer be recognized by the government.