Trans Women #WontBeErased

After news broke this weekend about the Trump administration’s intent to legally erase the existence of trans and gender non-conforming folks, trans women and individuals across the gender spectrum rose up to declare their identities and claim their own stories.

In a memo obtained by the New York Times, Trump administration officials laid out a strategy to exclude trans people from protections under Title IX—legally erasing their existence in the process.

The Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves—surgically or otherwise—as a gender other than the one they were born into.

Within hours of the New York Times report, the hashtag #WontBeErased went viral—trending on Twitter for days as trans people shared photos, stories and resources.

Each tweet was a small act of defiance. Each post was a declaration. And altogether, they provided proof of a thriving and strong resistance to national and local policies that disenfranchise and attack trans people.

Entire families also rose up in the wake of the Times report, including the parents of trans children. LGBT rights organization GLAAD even opened a portal wherein allies can submit messages of support to the trans community that they’ll be posting across social media.

Feminists have long advocated for a broader understanding of what are typically rigidly defined notions of gender. Trans women, and particularly trans women of color, have similarly led the fight for legal rights and equality for trans and queer communities. In the upcoming midterm elections alone, trans rights are on the ballot in some states and at stake in many more.

While #WontBeErased broke the Internet, trans trailblazers and contemporary trans leaders alike took to social media with fierce messages that signaled their intent to fight back against not only the Trump administration’s attacks on their communities, but all those yet to come.

The Trump administration’s attacks on queer and trans communities didn’t begin this weekend. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has consistently undermined the rights of trans students in her post; Vice President Mike Pence is a brazen opponent to LGBT equality whom the president once joked wanted gay Americans “hanged.”

This latest attack on trans people isn’t the first, and it also won’t be the last—but the voices which have demanded better serve as powerful reminders to all of us that our equality is connected, and that feminism must include trans women and address their needs.

When the rights of trans women are under attack, we must all fight back.

About and

Micaela Brinsley recently graduated from the Performance Studies department at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, she is a feminist theatre artist, activist and writer with a background in performance art and labor rights. Passionate about social justice, she is an avid conversationalist committed to making the world a more just place. She has been writing for Ms. since the summer of 2017. You can contact her at mbrinsley [at]
Carmen Rios is a self-proclaimed feminist superstar and the former digital editor at Ms. Her writing on queerness, gender, race and class has been published in print and online by outlets including BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, DAME, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic, the National Women’s History Museum, SIGNS and the Women’s Media Center; and she is a co-founder of Webby-nominated Argot Magazine. @carmenriosss|