The Fordham Ram

Trump Administration Threatens Title IX

Transgender+rights+in+the+educational+setting+will+be+rolled+back+by+the+Trump+administration%27s+proposed+definition+of+gender+under+Title+IX.+%28Ram+Archives%29
Transgender rights in the educational setting will be rolled back by the Trump administration's proposed definition of gender under Title IX. (Ram Archives)

Transgender rights in the educational setting will be rolled back by the Trump administration's proposed definition of gender under Title IX. (Ram Archives)

Transgender rights in the educational setting will be rolled back by the Trump administration's proposed definition of gender under Title IX. (Ram Archives)


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By Tereza Shkurtaj

Today, the 1.4 million Americans who identify as transgender could potentially lose the rights they were previously afforded under Title IX as a result of proposed revisions by the Trump administration. The administration intends to narrowly define gender within Title IX, which could roll back years of advancements made in favor of transgender civil rights, especially in educational settings. Members of the LGBTQ+ community at Fordham expressed concern over the proposed changes last week in an open letter and a demonstration at the Lincoln Center campus.

In a memo acquired by The New York Times, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) states that Title IX revisions “would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable and determined by the genitals that a person is born with,” and that if there were any question of someone’s sex, it would be clarified using genetic evidence. In an effort to legally define sex, HHS said the definition of gender should be uniform and based off biology as declared by one’s birth certificate, and that the Obama administration wrongfully interpreted sex to include gender identity.

President Trump has previously expressed concerns regarding transgender individuals serving in the military and is clearly unsupportive of accommodations such as public gender-neutral bathrooms.

In 1972, Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendment, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. Originally, this act was meant to widen opportunities for women and provide protection against prejudice in education and the workplace. The terms used within Title IX are defined vaguely, allowing the law to be interpreted by each administration and making it malleable to changing social and political landscapes.

Under the Obama administration, Title IX’s use of the term ‘sex’ extended to gender-identity, therefore including and defending transgender individuals from discrimination. This interpretation slowly gave rise to the creation of gender neutral bathrooms and locker rooms in schools and in some cases. In California, the allowance of transgender individuals to play on athletic teams based on identified gender.

“The way I see it,” said Margaret Burzynski, a member of the Fordham LGBTQ+ community, “there is no such thing as a person who doesn’t deserve civil rights protections, no matter what their gender identity is. The language being used by the Trump administration specifically dehumanizes transgender people and other marginalized groups who have had to fight for civil rights protections under the law. For me, there is no argument here. Trans people are people, and trans people exist, and they should be treated as such.”

On Oct. 25, an open letter was co-signed by a number of Fordham University clubs, including PRIDE Alliance and Rainbow Alliance, two undergraduate student organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community. In this letter, student groups wrote to publicly oppose prospective revisions of Title IX under the Trump administration, stating: “If the Administration follows through on these proposed changes, it will be its most severe affront to transgender, GNC [gender non-conforming] and intersex rights to date.”

While applauding Fordham University for “continuing to protect against discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity, and gender expression under Title IX,” the letter calls on Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university , “to publicly affirm in a university-wide letter the university’s position that we will not tolerate transphobia within our community or on our campus.”

Student groups urged for an immediate change in transphobic housing policies and for an adoption of a chosen name and pronouns policy. According to PRIDE Alliance, the letter, which was sent directly to Fordham administrators and posted on social media, has yet to receive an official response from the university.

On Wednesday, Oct. 31, a rally for transgender rights was held at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Plaza. The PRIDE Alliance described it as “powerful and effective.” Individuals had the opportunity to give statements, while the Rainbow Alliance provided copies of the open letter to close to 100 attendees.

Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Jeffrey Gray was unable to attend the demonstration, but thanked them for sharing their concerns. He committed to reviewing the letter and its requests, promising to discuss them with the Student Life staff and follow up with members of PRIDE Alliance.

This week, major U.S. companies, such as Apple, Microsoft and Google, declared support for the legal rights of the transgender community in a letter stating: “policies that force people into a binary gender definition determined by birth anatomy fail to reflect the complex realities of gender identity and human biology.”

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