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October 22, 2018

APA Decries Apparent Administration Attempt to Erase Transgender Definition in Federal Programs

Reported proposal ignores well-established science

WASHINGTON — A reported attempt by the administration to redefine sex in civil rights law in order to remove anti-discrimination protections for transgender people fails to recognize decades of scientific research into psychology, genetics and physiology, according to the American Psychological Association.

“We are appalled at this apparent attempt by the administration to remove protections based on gender identity or expression,” said APA President Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD. “For decades, researchers have recognized that gender is not necessarily determined by a person’s biological sex assigned at birth, which can be physiologically uncertain in some cases. Purposely ignoring this body of evidence is indefensible and certain to add to the stress and discrimination already experienced by transgender people.” 

Daniel was responding to a report by The New York Times of a memo within the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans sex discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance. The definition would state that sex is either male or female, unchangeable and determined by the sex organs that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. This fits with a pattern of limiting the definition of sex to sex-assigned-at-birth as already seen in policies within the Department of Education and the Bureau of Prisons, to give just two examples.

“Reliance on the term ‘biological sex’ ignores the complexity of the spectrum of sex, including natural variation in gender identity and the existence of people with differences in sex development,” Daniel added. “Redefining a well-established term within federal policy with such harmful consequences is without justification. We call on the administration to abandon this wrongheaded approach.”