The New York Times reports that the Trump Administration, via the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is circulating a memo that seeks to define gender “on a basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” This definition, to potentially apply throughout several federal government agencies, states: “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.” Whatever else one might believe about this definition and its goals, it is not grounded in science. It conflates gender and sex, and it does not define either in a way that is consistent with medical norms. But far worse, the definition would deny the existence of transgender people, in glaring contrast to the broad consensus of the medical and scientific communities — and could inspire even greater threats to the health of transgender people.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and many others all called for an end to discrimination against those whose gender does not match the sex assigned to them at birth. Those calls reflect an important recognition of the human rights of transgender people, and the importance of this cannot be overstated. It is time that people stop attempting to use the language of science to diminish people’s lived experience.