FGS Faculty Statement on the Transgender Memo

Photo courtesy Sean M. Haffey. Members of the TransLatin@ Coalition, an LA based non-profit protested Trump’s Trans memo with this Trans Pride flag banner drop at the World Series at Dodger Stadium this past weekend.Trans Flag at World Series.png

Photo courtesy Sean M. Haffey. Members of the TransLatin@ Coalition, an LA based non-profit protested Trump’s Trans memo with this Trans Pride flag banner drop at the World Series at Dodger Stadium this past weekend.


On October 21st, the New York Times released a memo containing the Trump administration’s plans to roll back civil rights and anti-discrimination protections for transgender and intersex people. The memo declared that it would adopt a definition of gender that is biologically determined by genitalia at birth under Title IX – the federal civil rights law that forbids discrimination in schools receiving government funds, as well as other contexts. It thereby threatens to write out the existence of transgender and intersex people from the policies and statutes implemented by the departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Justice, and Labor, allegedly for the sake of greater consistency and administrability.

Far from just another impulsive twitter tirade from Trump, this memo comes in a series of strategic anti-trans administrative moves, such as pushbacks on transgender inclusion in the military, denial of recognition for public school students’ gender identity and the right to use the bathroom of one’s choice, and so on. To be clear, the attack on transgender and intersex people is grave and ongoing. Here are a few possible implications of the memo on trans and intersex peoples’ lives –

  • The Department of Education’s redefinition of sex and gender as genitalia based and immutable allows for an erasure of trans and intersex people from education and public policy overall. This means, in addition to an increased susceptibility to trans antagonism, gender-based violence, and discrimination, trans and intersex people will face additional bureaucratic hurdles around ID documentation for admissions and financial aid.
  • If the Department of Education adopts this definition, it will become the basis for other agencies’ implementations. Once accepted by the Health Department, insurance companies will no longer be obligated to perform gender affirming procedures and treatments.
  • Coupled with Trump’s Religious Liberty guidance, Right-leaning corporations and businesses will be further empowered to deny trans and intersex people employment. This, much like all points listed above, will exacerbate the economic precarity of trans women of color, specifically Black trans women.

Although the enormity of the impact of this Memo cannot be overstated, we might find some relief in the fact that the administration cannot undo decades of case law protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination, hate crimes, and so on. In addition, a number of States, including Colorado, have already passed laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexuality, that can serve as stop gap measures.

We, the faculty at Feminist & Gender Studies, outright condemn the Trump administration’s use of trans and intersex people’s lives as pawns to consolidate a conservative agenda, and mobilize popular anti-trans sentiments to dismantle broader liberties. We acknowledge the ways in which such weaponization of “science” and “objectivity” in defining sex and gender emboldens the everyday erasure, transphobia, and hate crimes targeting transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming people. We understand the deep sense of vulnerability and fear that this memo has inspired among transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people on and off campus.

We are committed to building our capacity as faculty and mentors to hold ourselves and Colorado College accountable to trans, intersex, and nonbinary students, faculty, and staff. We would like to offer the ID House as a space for students to gather in community, strategize, mourn, hold each other and hold space in the wake of the multiple white supremacist attacks on historically marginalized people this past week. And for the long term, we consider it our responsibility as feminist educators to amplify the work and voices of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) transgender activists, revolutionaries, and intellectuals in our classrooms and beyond.

Transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people will not be erased at FGS.

With love and solidarity,

Dr. Rushaan Kumar, on behalf of FGS faculty.

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