A new proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services could redefine gender, amending Title IX and eliminating certain protections for transgender students against discrimination on college campuses.
Title IX according to the Department of Justice, “is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.”
In 2014, the Department of Education under the Obama administration expanded those protections to transgender students. In 2016, the ED defended transgender students in cases across the country where students were denied use of the bathroom with the gender they identified with.
However, those protections could change under the Trump administration.
On Oct. 21, a memo from the Department of Health and Human Services was obtained by The New York Times which states that gender will be based “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”
The memo goes on to further state that gender and sex will only be defined by a person’s genitalia and what is stated on their birth certificate, unless rebutted by “genetic evidence.”
These proposed changes could eliminate the recognition of a transgender individual’s identity on a federal level, reversing Obama era regulations. This opens the door to the possibility of some transgender students being discriminated on campus with no federal protections afforded to them.
President of the PRIDE Club Adia Ledbetter noted how although the proposal will hurt the community initially, it will “help mobilize the community to continue to fight for LGBT rights, specifically transgender rights.”
Michael Verile, vice president of the PRIDE Club as well as other members, were “not surprised” by the recent proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services.
“This is the tip of the iceberg, this should be a call to action to start monitoring what is coming off of the White House desk,” Verile said. “Action is necessary in circumstances like these.”
Verile suggests that more members of the faculty need to be involved in this discussion and that there should be mandatory seminars for faculty to educate them on issues facing the LGBT community on campus.
“[The proposal] is not progressive at all,” said PRIDE Club Secretary Myah Renee Warren. “And it takes that American way of ‘Be who you are, be unique’ and it throws it in the trash.”
Question arises if the proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services will affect transgender students and if they should worry about discrimination here at Saint Peter’s.
Dr. Anthony Skevakis, vice president of Student Life and Development, told The Pauw Wow that even if the proposal passes, student life for transgender students will not change and that discrimination will still not be tolerated against anybody.
“We are not going to treat students differently regardless,” Skevakis said.
Dean of Students Erin McCann, who handles all Title IX cases at SPU, also addressed the concerns some students may have regarding the new proposal.
“In terms of education here at Saint Peter’s, we don’t allow discrimination, it doesn’t matter if they change the law, it doesn’t matter if they redefine gender, discrimination is discrimination.” said McCann.
New Jersey has laws already in place to protect transgender students from discrimination in education facilities. It is one of 18 states in the nation that has these protections, and if the proposal for the Title IX redefinition passes -- which McCann believes is unlikely -- transgender students are still protected at the state level.
“[This proposal is] not fair, everybody has a right to be whoever they want, to practice whatever they want, to identify however they want,” McCann said. “The government doesn’t have a right to come in and tell people ‘You have to be this way’ or ‘You have to fit this mold,’ that’s ridiculous.”