Louisiana transgender advocates and city officials are bracing for policy changes under President Donald Trump’s administration that could narrowly define gender and potentially roll back protections for transgender people, effectively an attempt to erase the definition.
According to a memo obtained by The New York Times, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is seeking unilateral changes to civil rights laws that would redefine gender based on the sex on one’s birth certificate, which could have significant consequences for the roughly 1.4 million transgender people in the U.S., as well as gender nonconforming and intersex people.
A statement from Louisiana Trans Advocates, which represents the more than 20,000 transgender people in the state, says “transgender Louisianans and our allies ask only for the freedom to live authentically and for the rights and protections from discrimination that allow us to do so.”
Organizers with the New Orleans Workers Group, among others, plan a Stop the Attack on Trans People event in Lafayette Square on Saturday, Oct. 27, joining transgender people and allies across the U.S. rallying against the measures through a #WontBeErased campaign.
In a statement to Gambit, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Communications Director Beau Tidwell says Cantrell “will not tolerate attacks on any of our friends and neighbors for any reason. The LGBTQ community is part of what makes New Orleans who we are, and the Cantrell administration will always stand for making every voice heard and making all of our people welcome and included.”
Cantrell recently helped create a LGBTQ+ Task Force within a revived Human Relations Commission to help build policy and representation within City Hall. Among the Human Relation Commission’s first priorities was gender-accommodating city services, including bathrooms at City Hall.
A shocking paragraph in the New York Times report reveals that “the Department of Health and Human Services has privately argued that the term ‘sex’ was never meant to include gender identity or even homosexuality, and that the lack of clarity allowed [President Barack Obama's] administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.”
Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the Human Relations Commission are identifying “low-hanging fruit” to expand access at City Hall, including creating…
Dylan Waguespack with Louisiana Trans Advocates says while it’s difficult to gauge the scope of the policy based on a leaked memo, “what we’re seeing is a proposal that stands in total conflict with what the medical community has known about sex and gender for a very long time.”
The organization reiterates that multiple court rulings already have interpreted existing laws to include legal protections for transgender people.
“The Trump-Pence administration cannot choose to follow only the laws that suit their political purposes and they cannot erase the existence of transgender Americans across our country,” the statement says.
A statement from the Southern Poverty Law Center says the administration “seems to think it can write transgender people out of existence by issuing regulations declaring that sex is determined at birth and cannot be changed.”
Louisiana Trans Advocates provides social support across the state through several programs and makes resources for transgender people available on its website. Waguespack says there are roughly 20,900 transgender people in Louisiana.
“That is a lot of people,” Waguespack said. “We are not going to sit on our hands and let this happen. … We’re here, and no matter what the government does, we’re not going anywhere.”