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Leaked HHS Memo Reveals Move to Identify People's Gender on a Biological Basis

According to a Sunday report by the New York Times, President Donald Trump is planning to change the legal definition of gender to be a “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.”


The move would be a departure from current government policy. Instituted by the Obama administration, current law relaxes the concept of gender as it relates to federal programs, including those of education and healthcare.

The Obama-era policies dictate that gender is an individual’s personal choice, and not dependent upon a person’s biological sex. As a result of the policy, there have been a number of disputes and lawsuits over things like bathroom and locker room access, and prison and homeless shelter placements, all across the country.

But now under President Trump, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appears to be planning a reversal of those policies.

Under Title IX--the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on gender in educational settings that receive government funding--the Trump administration is seeking to establish a more precise and traditional legal definition of sex.

The New York Times reports that the information comes by way of a leaked HHS memo, which has allegedly been circulating since last spring.

The memo in question reveals that HHS is calling on government agencies to adopt a uniform and explicit definition of sex that is based “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” where disputes would be settled through genetic testing.


“The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence,” the memo reads.

One effect of the proposed change in government policy would be that only biological females would qualify as women for Title IX non-discrimination and/or government assistance programs.

Although the American Psychiatric Association still classifies gender dysphoria as a psychological disorder, not everyone is happy about the Trump administration’s plans to return to a more narrow definition of gender for legal purposes.

The proposed policy change “quite simply negates the humanity of people,” Catherine Lhamon of the Obama Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights told the Times.

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Lhamon.

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio assured "scared and hurt" transgendered individuals on Twitter that the ACLU is "working to stop this and we will never give up."


According to an article in the Gay Star News, the changes would affect roughly 1.4 million individuals. The piece, clearly critical of the policies outlined in the memo, was titled “Leaked Memo Details Trump Administration Plan to Legally Erase Trans People.”

This is not the first move the Trump administration has made towards rolling back controversial Obama-era policies related to gender identification. It follows earlier attempts to ban transgender soldiers from serving in the military, reject transgender bathroom complaints in public schools, and house inmates in prisons which align with their biological sex.

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