Biden administration announces pro-transgender policies

President Joe Biden

The Biden administration has announced a handful of new policies and initiatives aimed at making life easier for transgender Americans, even as Republican-led states across the country pass legislation targeting transgender, non-binary, and gender-variant people.

Coinciding with the celebration of Transgender Visibility Day on Thursday, some of the new changes include the introduction of a new “X” gender marker on US passport applications, which is slated to take effect April 11, and new Transportation Security Administration scanners that are gender neutral, according to The Associated Press.

Twenty-one US states and the District of Columbia currently offer gender-neutral options on official identification, including driver’s licenses.

Fifteen countries around the world – Argentina, Austria, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, India and Nepal – currently offer a third gender option or not sexist on passports.

Last October, Dana Zzyym, a Navy veteran and intersex lawyer, received the first-ever US passport with a gender-neutral “X” marker after a six-year battle to get a passport that reflected their correct gender identity.

The introduction of the “X” marker, like the one obtained by Zzyym, will provide a measure of consistency for transgender, non-binary, or intersex people who live in the 22 U.S. jurisdictions where non-binary gender markers on licensing are available, their allowing them to have a passport that matches their permits, state ID cards and, in most of these jurisdictions, vital documents such as birth certificates.

Advocates hope that providing this consistency will prevent transgender, non-binary and intersex people from being unmasked against their will or from suffering the discrimination or harassment that can occur when they are forced to submit various forms of documentation that do not correspond. not to each other or which do not match. does not match the person’s gender identity and expression.

Visitors to the White House will soon also be able to select an “X” gender marker option in the White House Worker and Visitor Entry System, which is used to conduct background checks on visitors to the executive mansion. This will make things easier for transgender or non-binary people who have official business with the White House.

Amy Schneider, Jeopardy’s first transgender! The champion, who has enjoyed the second-longest winning streak in the program’s history, will be one of those visitors to the White House on Thursday, when she is due to meet second gentleman Doug Emhoff, the vice president’s husband. Kamala Harris.

By introducing gender-neutral scanners at airports, removing gender from the identity verification process, and adding the “X” marker option to TSA pre-screening, the Biden administration hopes to resolve what has become a thorny issue when TSA employees “flag” transgender individuals because their gender expression doesn’t match the gender on their ID or because a person’s body doesn’t match the machine’s expectations of what a “male” or “female” body should look like. This has led to some transgender or non-binary people being detained by the TSA or prevented from traveling unless they expose themselves or show their genitals to TSA employees.

“These updates to passports and TSA policy will enable transgender, non-binary and intersex members of our community to travel and walk through everyday life,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO from GLAAD management, in a statement. “Everyone deserves the right to have identity documents that reflect who they are and to pass through airport security without facing harassment and public humiliation. At a time when so many state legislatures are attacking our community, it’s encouraging that federal leaders are taking so many steps to support LGBTQ Americans, especially trans youth.

The Biden administration also announced upcoming changes to the Social Security system to make it easier for transgender people to access the benefits they’ve earned throughout their lives, including before transitioning; new initiatives at the Ministry of Education to support inclusive school environments; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission initiatives to protect transgender and non-binary workers from discrimination; the launch of a new federally run mental health resource for LGBTQ youth; and additional funding to add questions on sexual orientation and gender identity to US Census surveys.

President Biden will speak directly to transgender youth in a video address, hoping to ease their anxiety or feelings of isolation by assuring them of federal support, even as state lawmakers introduce bills aimed at restrict young people’s ability to play sports or access gender-affirming medical care. .

Also on Thursday, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, along with Admiral Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary of Health for the Department of Health and Human Services, will host a conversation with transgender children and their parents at the White House.

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona meets with LGBTQ students in Florida following the passage of a law banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary grades. , focusing on student experiences in schools and support for mental health and wellbeing.

Republicans have argued that the law prevents young children from being exposed to topics that are best left to their parents at home. LGBTQ advocates are skeptical that the law will be limited to elementary years only and, when effectively implemented, will be used to punish or suppress speech by older LGBTQ students or to erase LGBTQ identity altogether. schools.

The White House also announced that the Department of Health and Human Services would be the first agency to fly a Trans Pride flag.

In one proclamation released Wednesday evening, Biden marked Transgender Visibility Day by acknowledging the progress the transgender community has enjoyed in recent years due to various policies or court rulings, while drawing attention to the barriers they continue to face. .

“On this day and every day, we recognize the resilience, strength and joy of transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people,” Biden said. “We celebrate the activism and determination that fueled the fight for transgender equality. We recognize the adversity and discrimination that the transgender community continues to face in our country and around the world.

“Visibility is important, and so many transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming Americans are thriving,” he added. “Like never before, they are sharing their stories in books and magazines; breaking the glass ceilings of representation on television and cinema screens; enlist – once again – to serve proudly and openly in our armed forces; get elected and develop policies at all levels of government; and running businesses, curing illnesses, and serving our communities in countless other ways.

“Despite this progress, transgender Americans continue to face discrimination, harassment, and barriers to opportunity. Transgender women and girls — especially transgender women and girls of color — continue to face epidemic levels of violence, and 2021 marked the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans. Each of those lives lost was precious. Each of them deserved freedom, justice and joy. We must honor their lives by taking action to advance equity and civil rights for all transgender people.

“Over the past year, hundreds of state anti-transgender bills have been proposed across America, most targeting transgender children. The onslaught continued this year. These invoices are fake.

“Efforts to criminalize supportive medical care for transgender children, ban transgender children from playing sports, and ban discussion of LGBTQI+ people in schools undermine their humanity and corrode the values ​​of our nation. Studies have shown that these political attacks harm the mental health and well-being of transgender youth, putting children and their families at increased risk of bullying and discrimination. My entire administration is committed to ensuring that transgender people enjoy the freedom and equality that is promised to everyone in America.

That commitment seemed evident Thursday, when the Department of Justice sent a letter to all state attorneys general reminding them of the constitutional and statutory provisions that protect transgender youth from discrimination, including trans youth seeking gender-affirming care. kind.

The letter warns that policies or laws blocking medical care may violate individuals’ right to due process and equal protection under the law, and run counter to Section 1557 of the Health Care Act. affordable care, Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972, Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all children can live free from discrimination, abuse and harassment,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, Civil Rights Division of the department, in a press release. “Today’s letter reaffirms the obligation of national and local authorities to ensure that their laws and policies do not compromise or harm the health and safety of children, regardless of their gender identity.”

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