These 8 heinous attacks on transgender lives by the Trump administration would be put right by a Biden presidency. Quickly

Vic Parsons
·7-min read

The hallmarks of Donald Trump’s presidency have been attacks: on women, immigrants, Muslims, people of colour, disabled people and transgender people.

Trump’s attacks have often focused on people who are oppressed by the system that upholds his power: the cis- and hetero-normative, imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.

His administration has not held back when it comes to attacking transgender lives. From the ban on openly trans people serving in the US military and the legal attempts to ban trans girls from playing school sports, to encouraging discrimination against trans people in healthcare or homeless shelters, Trump has made it crystal clear to trans Americans that he is not their president.

There’s an iconic 1992 poem, I Want A President, which is doing the rounds again at the moment. In response to cult poet Eileen Myles’ presidential bid against George H.W. Bush, Zoe Leonard wrote: “I want a dyke for president. I want a person with AIDS for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn’t have a choice about getting leukemia.”

Now, Joe Biden would not, evidently, be that president. A Biden presidency is unlikely to achieve full trans liberation, but it will – as the Democrat has already made clear – reverse Trump’s most transphobic policies, and quickly.

So, what has Trump’s presidency done to the trans community that Biden could fix? Quite a lot, it turns out.

1. Donald Trump has ‘turned a blind eye’ to the epidemic of violence against trans women of colour.

Joe Biden condemned Donald Trump for “turning a blind eye to the epidemic of violence against transgender women of colour” during a campaign speech last month.

Indeed, there have been soaring levels of violence against trans and gender non-confirming people during Trump’s presidency, and Black trans women are sadly at the top of the tragic list.

The violence has escalated, with 2020 the deadliest year on record for the trans community in the US since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking anti-trans violence. At least 33 trans or gender non-conforming people have been violently murdered in the US this year, surpassing the 27 reported killings of trans people in all of 2019, 26 reported killings in 2018, 29 in 2017, 23 in 2016, 21 in 2015, 20 in 2014 and 19 in 2013.

Biden has vowed to address the murders of trans people, saying: “Solving this epidemic of violence doesn’t just require a president who actually recognises it as fact, but one who believes in the humanity and dignity of transgender people.”

2. The trans military ban.

Donald Trump first announced that he’d be banning openly trans people from serving in the US military on Twitter, of course, in 2017. In 2019, after a series of attempts to block it, Trump’s desire became the law and tens of thousands of trans people stood to lose their jobs.

The blow was particularly large because, as the 2015 US Trans Survey (USTS) found, 18 per cent of all trans people have served in the military – which is thought to be the single largest employer of trans people in the US.

Biden has been vague about his plans for the US military, but one promise he has made is to remove the Trump administration policy barring openly trans people from serving.

3. Trump administration wants homeless shelters to discriminate.

The Trump administration empowered homeless shelters to refuse services to transgender people under a new law change mooted in July, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a modification to 2016’s Equal Access Rule, which currently requires all federally-funded housing services to be provided without discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

HUD is now seeking to make this trans-inclusive policy voluntary, in order to better accommodate the “religious beliefs of shelter providers”.

The change was proposed by senior Trump official Ben Carson, who has previously claimed that “big, hairy men” are trying to enter women’s spaces. His department has justified the change in the law by arguing it would prevent cis men from surreptitiously gaining access to women’s homeless shelters to abuse residents or track down spouses.

4. Trump backs bans on trans girls in school sports.

Trump has backed legal attempts, led by anti-LGBT+ evangelical law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, to ban trans girls from playing school sports. And in March, the Trump administration officially declared that it believes trans girls should be treated as “biological males” when playing sports at school.

The US Justice Department is supporting a lawsuit that aims to block trans girls at schools in Connecticut from competing as girls in interscholastic sports competitions. And Trump himself has tweeted in support of an Idaho law that bans trans girls from playing women’s sports.

5. He also backs governors who want to block trans people from gaining legal recognition.

Republican-backed bills to block trans people from getting legal recognition of their gender have cropped up in several states, with Idaho the most successful so far. Opposition has been fierce and pro-trans activists have seen wins. Trump supports the governors seeking to restrict trans rights – Biden won’t.

6. The Equality Act.

The Equality Act was passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives in 2019 but it was stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, with the Trump administration labelling the legislation a “poison pill” that would supposedly “undermine parental and conscience rights”.

If passed, the Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and the jury system.

Joe Biden said in June that passing the Equality Act would be one of his first moves as president: “I promise you, if I’m elected president it will be the first thing I will ask to be done, because it will send a message not just at home but around the world.”

He added: “This is the civil rights issue of our time. If it fails, think about what else fails. It would have a profound effect on who we are as people.”

7. Trump rolled back healthcare protections for trans people.

In May, the Trump administration issued new rules that grant healthcare providers the right to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. The huge rollback of healthcare protections by the Department of Health and Human Services under Trump has left trans people vulnerable to being turned away by healthcare providers when they need help the most.

Biden has condemned the Trump administration’s recent actions to gut healthcare protections for LGBT+ people. He has described gender-affirming surgeries as “medically necessary” and vowed to reverse Trump’s attacks on trans and non-binary people.

8. Joe Biden says he’ll ‘flat out change the law’ to protect trans kids.

Mieke Haeck, 42, a physical therapist and “proud mom” of two girls aged eight and 10, the younger of whom is trans, quizzed the Democratic presidential hopeful on how he’d protect the lives and rights of LGBT+ people at an October 15 ABC town hall in Philadelphia.

She explained how the Trump administration has “attacked the rights of transgender people”, highlighting the discriminatory transgender military ban, the weakening of non-discrimination protections and removal of the word “transgender” from government websites.

“How will you, as president, reverse this dangerous and discriminatory agenda and ensure that the lives and rights of LGBTQ people are protected under US law?” Haeck asked.

“I will flat out just change the law,” Biden replied without hesitation. “Eliminate those executive orders, number one.”