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Easy Targets: Trump’s Attacks on Transgendered People

As the nation celebrated Independence Day on July 4th, 2020, Summer Taylor, a white non-binary person was killed after a car drove into a crowd of protestors in Seattle on July 4. Taylor was participating in the Black Femme March in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and against police brutality. Taylor worked full time at Urban Animal veterinary hospital. Over the holiday weekend, two Black trans women – Shaki Peters (of Amity, LO) and Bree Black (of Pompano Beach, FL) – were also killed.

The Human Rights Campaign reports so far this year “at least” 25 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. It adds, “We say at least because too often these stories go unreported — or misreported.”

The victims ranged in ages from 19 to 34 and lives throughout the country, from the Bronx to Charlotte to Dallas, from Philadelphia to Little Rock to McAlester, OK, and to Puerto Rico. Those targeted were predominately

Black transgender women a Black transgender man, but also transgender man and women, a transgender Latina and a 17-year old Black transgender girl.

Since Trump took office in January 2017, more than 20 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been killed annually:

2017 — 25 people killed; 84 percent were people of color; 80 percent women; and 3 of 4 under the age of 35.

2018 — 22 people killed; 82 percent women of color; 64 percent under the age of 35; and 55 percent lived in the South.

2019 — 26 people killed; 91 percent Black women; 81 percent under 30 years of age; and 68 percent lived in South.

The killings of transgender and gender nonconforming people is the worse of the sufferings they have endured during Donald Trump’s presidency.

***

Trump has a remarkably ability to change his position on issues as the political winds change. In 2000, when he was exploring a presidential run as a Reform Party candidate, he told The Advocate, a gay-rights magazine, that he supported amending the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation. He declared:

I like the idea of amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Trump said. “It would be simple. It would be straightforward. We don’t need to rewrite the laws currently on the books, although I do think we need to address hate-crimes legislation. But amending the Civil Rights Act would grant the same protection to gay people that we give to other Americans — it’s only fair.

However, his Trump sought the Republican Party nomination in 2016, Trump moved further to the right, embracing the white Christian moralist agenda.

Since taking office, Trump has targeted transsexual people. The National Center for Transgender Equality has carefully assembled a detailed list of his – and his administration’s – campaign against transgender people. These anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ actions include the following:

January 2017 — on his inauguration day, all mentions of LGBTQ people were removed from the websites of the White House, Department of State and Department of Labor.

February 2017 — Depts of Justice and Education withdrew 2016 protection of transgender students under the federal Title IX law.

August 2017 — Trump issues memo directing Dept. of Defense to prepare a plan to discharge transgender military service members and to maintain a ban on recruitment.

September 2017: President Trump nominates Jeff Mateer to U. S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Texas; Mateer called transgender children part of “Satan’s plan” and openly supported debunked and dangerous “conversion therapy.” Mateer’s nomination was eventually withdrawn.

December 2017 — Trump disbands the White House Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

May 2018 – Dept. of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons in the Department of Justice adopts a policy to house transgender people in federal prison facilities that match their sex assigned at birth, rolling back existing protections.

May 2019 — Dept of HHS erases a rule protecting transgender patients from discrimination by doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies

July 2019 – Dept. of State established “Commission on Unalienable Rights” narrowing human rights advocacy to align with the “natural law” and “natural rights” views of social conservatives.

August 2019 – Office of Personal Management suspended protecting for transgender employees of federal contractors.

May 2020 – Dept. of Education declares that Title IX requires school to ban transgender students from participating in school sports.

On July 1st, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development announced new rules permitting single-sex homeless shelters to exclude transgender people whose gender identity does not correspond to the birth gender. HUD’s rules define transgender persons based on their appearance. The appearance guidelines specify “factors such as height, the presence (but not the absence) of facial hair, the presence of an Adam’s apple, and other physical characteristics which, when considered together, are indicative of a person’s biological sex.”

In response, Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) issued the following statement:

This vehemently anti-trans proposal is a total departure from the mission of HUD and it will put lives at risk at a time when access to safe housing is absolutely vital. For more than a year now, Secretary [Ben] Carson has cited no real evidence nor provided any credible justification for this rule change — this policy is nothing more than a license to discriminate against transgender Americans.

Ironically, on June 15th, Supreme Court ruled, in Bostock v. Clayton County (2020), in a 6–3 vote that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a landmark United States civil rights case

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was one of Trump’s to conservative Court appointees, wrote for the majority, noting, it is “impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” The ruling implied that whenever someone penalizes an LGBTQ person for being LGBTQ, the victim’s “sex plays an unmistakable and impermissible role.”

***

Trump and his administration have not killed any transgender or gender nonconforming person.

Nevertheless, the president’s repeated verbal and Twitter attacks against gay and transgender people and the anti-gay and anti-transgender policies adopted by nearly every department of his administration fostered a social climate that legitimizes such killings. Sadly, there will likely continue to be killings of transgender people.

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

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