Trump Administration attempts to redefine gender, threatens Vashon community
By Isabelle Spence, Co-Content Editor
In late October, the Department of Health and Human Services released a memo stating plans to redefine the term ‘gender.’ This redefinition could have sweeping consequences for the LGBTQ+ community, both nationally and locally.
The Trump administration’s new characterization would define gender as “unchangeable, and determined by the genitalia someone is born with.” This definition differs from the current medically-accepted definition, which defines gender as a state of being tied more closely to social and cultural differences than to biological ones.
Many have pointed out the flaws in the Trump administration’s definition, as it diminishes the validity of trans and non-binary people.
“Gender is how a person feels inside,” QSA faculty adviser Aaron Marsh said. “It is the maleness, femaleness, or mixture, or maybe even non-feeling, of personal identity that emanates out of a person. [A person can] feel it, but you can’t necessarily see it from the outside.”
However, this lack of accurate representation is not the only issue people have with the redefinition.
“It’s repetitive, because we already have [the word] sex, which is … the sex you’re assigned at birth,” QSA student-president Dimitrius Brown said. “I don’t see the point of redefining gender as something that there is already a definition for.”
Due to its redundancy, many believe that this definition does not originate from a medical perspective, and may be founded on personal beliefs.
“[The definition] is highly ideological,” Marsh said. “It completely denies the fact that people’s internal life, and identity, can sometimes conflict with what they have on them externally, and what they’re identified as.”
This proposed definition would contradict the Obama-era modification to Title IX, which specified that discrimination stemming from transphobia is illegal. If Trump’s new policy was approved, it could affect nearly every aspect of a trans person’s life, from housing and jobs to their government-issued IDs. These changes would occur across the nation.
However, students and faculty have voiced that they will resist any change this policy would bring to the school.
“We’re not relying on that limited authority of the president,” principal Danny Rock said. “[Protection of trans] rights aren’t going anywhere, Trump or no Trump.”
Rock said he will ensure students will continue to have the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with their prefered gender, be addressed by their chosen pronouns, and be enrolled in Skyward with accordance to their gender identity.
The possible effects of the new definition go far beyond the concrete changes. This action on the part of the Trump administration invalidates the trans experience.
“At that point, it’s our government essentially saying, ‘you don’t exist,’” Brown said. “It’s just the government attacking the LGBTQ+ community.”
This attack will likely have significant effects on individual psyches, as well.
“It’s easy to forget that a lot of damage that happens to people happens in their heart,” Marsh said. “Even though we have a local community where a trans person is relatively safe, they’re still in this larger environment that’s hostile and [trans people] know it.”
The local impact of the policy is difficult to determine, as most Vashon residents consider their home and school to be a refuge from discrimination and harassment. However, many students who identify as LGBTQ+ disagree with this assumed acceptance of everyone.
“It’s a problem to see the school as only supportive, because it is not,” Brown said. “It is… covering the underlying problem of homophobia and transphobia.”
Some are concerned that this policy would only serve to further embolden those who have discriminated against the QSA or the school’s LGBTQ+ community in the past. Other effects on the Vashon community may include a negative impact on the mental health of the trans community.
“I expect that our trans students will feel angry and afraid and vulnerable, and there could even be an uptick of the kind of discrimination and harassment they experience from others,” Rock said.
The negative impacts of facing discrimination and transphobia at school on a daily basis is incalculable.
“This type of thing is going to create an increase in depression, anxiety, and ultimately, for some … substance abuse and suicide,” Marsh said. “All this stuff weighs on people. … Every time they hear [discriminatory comments], it is like their psyche takes a hit.”
Though Vashon is currently threatened by this new political proposition, it is possible to fight back against it. QSA is already discussing the possibility of a protest, should the policy go through.
“[Protesting] gives just a little bit more voice to the issue,” Brown said. “Don’t be afraid to talk about [these issues].”
On a more personal level, Marsh recommends that students steer away from letting policy dictate personal opinions. Instead, he wants students to form their own judgments of people, without jumping to conclusions.
“The minute you start objectifying someone, you’re ignoring their basic subjectivity, their right as a human,” Marsh said.