Why We Should All Be Worried About Trump’s Views On Trans Rights

In the week when a leaked memo suggested that the Trump administration wants to create a legal definition of gender that's defined at birth, Juno Dawson asks, if the American government does manage to roll back existing liberal human rights, why would they stop there?

Trump administration gender recognition act

by Juno Dawson |
Updated on

I’m off Twitter at the moment. As the government closed its consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act – the system by which trans people apply for a new birth certificate – the social media noise was unbearable. Hundreds and hundreds of people with hundreds and hundreds of opinions about people like me.

I was already having a bad day. My chihuahua had pissed on my rug and being repeatedly told ‘you’re not a real woman’ in lots of subtle ways was starting to get me down, to say the absolute least.

In real life, people – for the most part – keep their opinions to themselves in the coffee shop or M&S thankfully. A couple of days into my blissfully quiet Twitter hiatus, I awoke to text messages from well-meaning friends forwarding me a solemn New York Times piece suggesting President Trump is considering rolling back rights for transgender people in the United States.

It seems there’s no escape. However much I want to crack on with my job and life, my gender is a political hot potato I can’t ignore.

Obviously, I read the story with creeping horror. Like face-in-hands, going-down-in-a-lift-too-fast, poop-your-pants terror. How could this be happening? He’s going to, what, erase the entire concept of a trans person? I’m quite self-centred, admittedly, but even I realise I’m not the only trans person in the world. Granted we’re not a huge minority group, but there are enough of us for the medical community and the vast majority of governments to agree that we are ‘a thing’. We don’t know why some people are trans, but it does rather seem to keep happening. We don’t know why gay or bi people are gay or bi either, and it shouldn’t matter to be honest. It’s enough that we are.

Belonging to a minority group is inherently political. Politicians discuss, debate and dissect race, class, disability, sexuality and gender in a way that suggests being a solvent, white man is the apolitical default. It’s only since starting my transition in 2013 however, that I’ve felt how much power and control these politicians have. Politics, as a concept, breathes closely down my neck like that iconic image of the alien dribbling on Sigourney Weaver’s head. In the UK, trans people only really achieved any rights whatsoever in 2004 and, from where I’m sitting right now, they’re starting to look a little precarious.

You might be reading this and thinking ‘oh well, only 0.7% of the nation is trans, it won’t affect me.’ If you are, a) that’s not very neighbourly and b) I still think you should have cause to be concerned. If you’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll know the horrific fate of June and co did not start with red capes and wimples – it started with restrictions on minority groups.

My fear is that trans people in America are the metaphorical canary in the mineshaft. The Trump administration is targeting a very small, harmless community to see what they can get away with. If they do manage to roll back existing liberal human rights, why would they stop there? What liberal cause would be next? Gay and lesbian marriage? Gay adoption? We’ve already seen abortion rights come under attack in many states. Mexican migrants were the first canary Trump went after.

Don’t believe me? This has happened before. You know that super-famous image of Nazis gleefully tossing books onto a burning pyre? That wasn’t a big pile of domestic noir thrillers. It was the private library of Dr Magnus Hirschfeld. He founded the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft where some of the very first gender reassignment surgeries took place, including Lili Elbe – the real-life woman played by Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl.

Sorry this is such a downer – yeah I just said Nazi – but it’s gonna take all of us to say a resounding ‘NO’, even on issues that might not, at first glance, directly affect us. We must stand together while an increasingly right-wing world comes sniffing around our very fundamental rights. These politicians, these men, are legislating our bodies and our bodily autonomy. All women must have the right to decide our biological destiny. That’s why I think any future attacks on the trans community should concern you every bit as much as it concerns me.

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