Essay: Trump’s new definition of gender would make me invisible

It’s a scary time to be transgender in America. Trust me, I speak from experience.

Rates of violence against the transgender community are at record highs, and President Donald Trump has tried to ban transgender people from the military. Now, the Trump administration is waging a war on the legal definition of gender in an attempt to erase transgender people from our country’s narrative. No matter what this administration says, we aren’t going anywhere and we certainly won’t go quietly.

We need your love and support now more than ever. Especially for individuals who are still closeted, it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to have to constantly fight for your right to exist. We don’t want much, but especially in light of these discriminatory political moves, we just want the same basic human rights awarded to those around us.

For a good portion of my life, I’ve felt different. Different from my classmates, different from my family and different from what is considered normal. Growing up, I didn’t understand why my brother and all of his friends were allowed to run around shirtless during the summer while I had to keep my top on. In my mind, I was one of the guys, too. I did everything my older brother did, from trying a variety of sports to tagging along to Cub Scout and Boy Scout events. I didn’t see any reason for us to be treated differently from one another.

Unfortunately, society had different expectations for me. I did ballet and tap dancing, cheerleading and figure skating. I painted my whole world pink. But in retrospect, there were plenty of signs that I didn’t fit in the box I’d been put in. I had been stealing my brother’s clothes since elementary school and whenever my friends and I would play house, I always wanted to play the brother. People around me threw the label “tomboy” at me and figured that it covered all the bases.

While there are plenty of girls that enjoy activities that are labeled as being for boys, I’m not one of them. But saying I’m a boy feels almost as wrong as saying I’m a girl. It took me a while to acquire the vocabulary I needed to articulate what I am, but once I figured it out, my life made a lot more sense. While I am transgender, I’m not trans in the way most people may understand it.

I’m genderqueer, a term used to describe certain individuals who fall outside of the male-female binary. The best way I can explain my experience to others is that on a scale from one to five, with one being someone who feels 100 percent female and five being someone who feels 100 percent male – I’m somewhere between a three and a four. While I can try to explain what it is like to be transgender, I can’t necessarily represent the community as a whole, because every person’s journey is different. There is such variation from person to person that it’s nearly impossible to articulate what exactly the trans experience is, let alone try to define it.

The Trump administration is currently attempting to redefine gender as “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” As a genderqueer individual, my identity would be completely erased.

Not only is that thought extremely distressing, it is also dangerous because the new definition spreads false information to the masses and invalidates transgender people and their experiences. Several studies have proven this definition to be false, as the scientific community has agreed that genetics, genitals and hormones do not define gender. The brain defines your gender, not anatomy or genetic makeup.

The administration is attempting to chase trans people back into the closet by making it nearly impossible to legally transition. This new definition would prevent transgender individuals from being able to change their gender markers on legal documents like birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports, effectively erasing transgender people from public life. This new definition would also indirectly roll back anti-discrimination protections for trans people.

The combination of consequences that would come from this new and incorrect definition of gender would be tragic for the transgender community. We are already a vulnerable group that is subject to harassment and violence on a regular basis, and this move by the Trump administration would only increase the dangers that my community faces.

Something the Trump administration seems incapable of understanding is that I was born this way. I can’t just wave a magic wand and make myself comfortable being a man or a woman, because that’s not who I am.

My state of existence outside of the binary is a strange limbo to be in, and I know it’s near impossible to understand from an outsider’s perspective. But that’s just the thing: I don’t ask for understanding, I simply ask for basic respect.

Respect my right to live my best life both privately and publicly. Respect my right to use a public restroom, without being sneered or stared at like I’m a monster. Respect my right to use a name that might not match my birth certificate. Respect my pronouns when I finally get the courage to ask you to call me by they or them, instead of she or her.

Respect my right to exist.

Kris Brodeur, a junior majoring in international affairs and Latin American hemispheric studies, is a Hatchet columnist.

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