Scientists’ Open Letter Against Trump’s Gender Memo

Erin Zipman, Staff Writer

Just a few weeks ago, the Trump administration threatened to establish a distinctly binary legal definition of gender based on one’s genitals. In essence, it would eliminate transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people’s identities and legal protections. However, thousands of scientists have come together to refute that.

An open letter titled “Transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people #WontBeErased by pseudoscience” asks the government to withdraw this proposed policy. The policy, the letter argues, is unfounded by science and blatantly undermines critical constitutional and human rights.

The science of gender identity is still rudimentary, and the letter explains that “many factors, known and unknown, mediate the complex links between identity, genes, and anatomy.” The science community maintains that it’s more than just your chromosomes and your genitals that determine your gender and sex. Sexual characteristics can vary greatly, and are influenced by much more than just the absence or presence of certain chromosomes, and therefore, requiring distinct, binary gendering under this policy would put many intersex people at greater risk for dangerous surgeries at birth. By invalidating the fluidity of gender identity, the policy would also devastate the psychological and emotional health of the millions of Americans who would be forced to be labeled in a way that contradicts their very selves.

Just the proposal of such measures has sent waves of terror through the transgender community — Trans Lifeline, an organization run by and for the transgender community, that offers a crisis hotline, has had four times as many calls after the Department of Health and Human Services’ gender memo was leaked. Transgender and non-binary students in our own school have felt heightened anxiety and fear, on top of the normal burden of navigating a binary, cisgender-centered society.  That is why it is important to reach out, listen to, support, and most of all respect people of the LGBTQ+ community.

The letter is open and ongoing, allowing new credible scientists to add their names. As of early November, the number of scientists who have signed in solidarity has surpassed 2,600, including 100 geneticists, 700 biologists, and nine Nobel laureates. It is a heartening sign to the members of the LGBTQ+ community that science is on their side. Destructive, baseless policy should have no place in today’s world. Let us continue to hold oppressors big and small to account, in the name of human dignity.