Trump admin said to refine legal definition of gender, putting transgender gains at risk: NY Times

Key Points
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a legal change that will narrow the definition of gender, according to The New York Times.
  • The draft memo would roll back changes made by the Obama administration, and put recognition of transgender men and women at risk.
On July 26, 2017, after a series of tweets by President Donald Trump proposing to ban transgender people from military service, thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets in opposition.
Michael Nigro | Pacific Press | LightRocket | Getty Images

In a proposition that may affect federal recognition of transgender individuals in the U.S., the Trump administration is considering significantly narrowing the definition of gender, according to a New York Times report.

The publication reported on Sunday about the existence of a memo from the Department of Health and Human Services, obtained by The Times. The document attempts to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX; a federal civil rights law that protects against gender discrimination in educational programs that receive financial assistance from the government.

The new, proposed definition would classify sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals a person is born with, according to the draft. CNBC could not independently verify the memo.

"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, according to The Times. "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 move would essentially exclude the transgender population from civil rights protections, and rolls back Obama administration policies that relaxed the legal concept of sex in federal programs, recognizing it largely as a person's choice.

"These policy decisions have real-world consequences," Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, an organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth, said in a statement.

"The Trevor Project has seen a significant rise in contacts from young people who identify as transgender or non-binary over the last year, now making up over 30 percent of our total crisis volume," Paley said. "When government takes actions targeting the transgender community, our call volume spikes even higher."

The new definition of sex is expected to be presented to the Department of Justice by the end of the year, the publication reported. If the definition is deemed legal, it could be approved and enforced across Title IX statutes and government agencies.

When asked for comment, HHS told CNBC the agency does not comment on alleged leaked documents. However, a spokesperson provided a statement from Roger Severino, head of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS:

"A federal court has blocked HHS's rule on gender identity and termination of pregnancy as contrary to law and infringing the rights of healthcare providers across the country. The court order remains in full force and effect today and HHS is abiding by it as we continue to review the issue."

The full report can be found on The Times' website.