Alyssa Milano on Why Cis Women Must Fight for Transgender Rights

Our struggles are not separate from the struggles of the transgender community—they’re bound up in each other, intertwined.

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Oct 23 2018, 3:17pm

In a few short weeks, a critical election looms, and, again, the Trump Administration is engaged in a vile attack on a marginalized community. In a memo made public this weekend, the Department of Health and Human Services pushed to define gender as being restricted to a person’s genitalia at birth in an act of open hostility against transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people (TGNC).

Aligning the legal definition of sex with one’s birth genitalia—complete with DNA testing to confirm—makes it clear that the Trump administration intends to continue to roll back rights and protections for TGNC and intersex people. But they won’t stop there.

The administration is framing its strategy as scientific: a way to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective, and administrable.” But the Trump Administration, which has consistently minimized and denied the impact of climate change, doesn’t care about science: They care about taking civil rights away from people who “should not have them.” In a system that puts cis men above all others, this dangerous policy proposal will create a further caste system, with TGNC people at the bottom.

Title IX was created to ensure that we wouldn’t experience discrimination on the basis of our sex. It’s provided opportunities for women to play sports in schools and universities and protected us from discrimination by organizations that receive federal funding. While never implemented in a way that created true parity for women in sports, it provided a framework and accountability for schools to include girls and women to participate at all levels of their education. I’m grateful for Title IX, and all American women should be, too. It is incredibly important to me that my son and my daughter are growing up at a time when girls and boys can all participate in athletics without fear of discrimination based on their gender.

Title IX has been widely interpreted by courts to include gender identity, and, within that, to be inclusive of transgender people. That’s not just an Obama-era interpretation, either: When the Obama Administration offered policy guidance around fluid interpretations of what constituted gender identity, it was in line with what courts were already ruling.

Alyssa Milano standing at a podium in Washington DC with her fist raised.
Photo by Alex Wong via Getty Images

The changes proposed in the Trump Administration’s cruel memo threaten to undo generations of already-too-slow progress. If gender is defined solely by birth genitalia, non-discrimination protections will vanish for TGNC people—everyone who doesn’t fit neatly into the inadequate boxes of “male” and “female” (as determined under the Trump administration’s unscientific metric).

Students at public schools who are transgender won’t be protected by Title IX in the same way their cisgender peers are. TGNC employees at federally funded organizations won’t have the non discrimination protections that Title IX provides—this is especially concerning, because transgender people already experience higher rates of economic instability and job insecurity, two factors which already create significant vulnerabilities for this community.

This is an attack on the very humanity of transgender people, designed to create a limbo in which our transgender friends and neighbors will be forced to exist. It’s a politically-driven assault coming from an administration that has already tried (and succeeded, in some cases) to roll back protections for transgender people.

It’s especially important that those of us who identify as feminists come to the support of the transgender community. My trans sisters experience even more pronounced, specific, and cruel iterations of the discrimination that all women face, and TGNC people face a dimension of societal exclusion and institutional neglect that is the responsibility of each of us to correct. Our struggles are not separate from the struggles of the TGNC community—they’re bound up in each other, intertwined. When we support each other—when we fight together—we can bring about change.

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There is weakness in the patriarchy. There is fear in this administration, and in those bureaucrats and lawmakers who push these harmful policies. Fear of losing power. There is cowardice in the face of empowered citizens demanding equality for all who call America home. There is power in the voting booth.

When we vote on November 6—when we stand together in solidarity and exercise that power those weak and scared and few will tremble, and their wrongs will begin to be righted. I call on each of you to stand with me, side by side, with the trans community.