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Renée Graham

Trump’s war on the transgender community

Michelle “Tamika” Washington, a transgender advocate, was shot to death in Philadelphia on May 19.Facebook

The National Center for Transgender Equality calls the Trump presidency “the discrimination administration.” President Trump and his heartless minions have worked nonstop to make that title stick.

From the Justice and Education departments dropping Obama-era guidelines to protect transgender students to a ban on trans women and men from serving openly in the military, Trump has enacted one punishing policy after another, making an already marginalized population even more isolated and at-risk.

Now, weeks before worldwide celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that marked the beginning of the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement, the Trump administration is systematically rolling back still more hard-won gains for transgender people.


In an unnecessary war against this nation’s transgender community, Trump is its commander in chief.

As usual, these reversals encompass the primary criteria for most Trump policies — it’s right-wing comfort food, it’s deliberately cruel to a vulnerable population, and it subverts president Obama’s legacy. The policies facing reversal were established during his presidency.

The Health and Human Services Department wants to drop a rule that protects transgender people from discrimination in health care. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 70 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming people have experienced bias ranging from denial of care to physical roughness by health care providers because of their gender identity. Fearing discrimination, nearly 25 percent forgo seeing a doctor, even when necessary.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is rescinding a policy requiring federally funded homeless shelters to “provide equal access to programs, benefits, services, and accommodations in accordance with an individual’s gender identity.” It also allows facility operators to take a person’s sex into account when deciding whether they can stay in a shelter.

And come July, health care workers can decline to perform or assist in medical procedures like abortion or sex reassignment surgery if they cite it as a violation of their religion or conscience.


Zealots like Vice President Mike Pence call this “religious liberty.” It’s discrimination.

In a climate of hate, where the federal government’s official response to transgender people is to endanger and erase them, it’s no wonder that transgender people in general, and black transgender women in particular, are being murdered with little or no notice.

So far this year, at least five transgender women have been killed, including two this month: Michelle “Tamika” Washington , in Philadelphia, and Muhlaysia Booker, in Dallas, both shot to death. Since 2015, more than 100 transgender people have been murdered, and that number could be higher because some victims are misgendered

Many of these murders go unsolved, and the victims — because of their gender identity (and compounded by race) — are quickly forgotten.

If the Trump administration thinks the transgender community will allow itself to be eradicated, it understands nothing about what it takes to persevere against all odds. Without this community, there would have been no Stonewall Riots, the spark that allowed so many of us in the LGBTQ community to later tell our own stories and live openly. On that steamy night nearly 50 summers ago, transgender women of color, like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, chose rebellion over resignation. One administration’s destructive agenda won’t easily take away the modest civil rights now under threat.


At least Tuesday brought some good news. The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Pennsylvania students who claimed a high school’s transgender policy, allowing children to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, violated their privacy.

Of course, this won’t be the end of the issue, since Trump and Pence probably view such attacks as a winning election strategy. It’s certainly a long way from the lie Trump perpetuated as the newly minted Republican nominee in 2016.

In his convention acceptance speech, Trump specifically mentioned the mass shooting at Pulse, an Orlando, Fla., gay club, two months earlier. He wanted to evoke the murderer, an American man who claimed allegiance to ISIS, as a way to disparage all Muslims. With the massacre still fresh in many minds, Trump used the LGBTQ community as a prop to promote Islamophobia.

“As your president,” he said, “I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”

What Trump never promised was to protect us from the violence and oppression of his own administration’s hateful ideology.

Renée Graham can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.