UC Davis responds to Trump administration’s proposed change to gender definition

MARKUS KAEPPELI / AGGIE

University leaders affirm students’ rights, denounce proposal

A memo from the Department of Health and Human Affairs obtained by The New York Times in early October proposed changes to the concept and definition of gender in federal programs including education. The changes would “roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law,” according to The New York Times.

The federal law of Title IX under the Education Amendments Act of 1972 states that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The memo proposes defining gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable” and lays out a plan to define persons as unchangeably male or female determined by an individual’s physical features.

UC Davis, as a public institution, receives federal funds. Wendi Delmendo, chief compliance officer of UC Davis Title IX, said that UC Davis won’t change discrimination policies that protect students based on gender expression.

“I’d like to reassure our students that, based on the information currently available, the University does not anticipate any changes in the way UC Davis handles complaints of discrimination or harassment,” Delmendo said. “Existing University policy prohibits discrimination based on sex, gender, gender expression and gender identity, among other legally protected characteristics such as race, religion and disability.”

According to The Williams Institute under UCLA’s School of Law, approximately 1.4 million individuals in the U.S identify as transgender. After The New York Times released the contents of the memo, a widespread wave of backlash followed on the basis that this federal recognition erasure would explicitly and implicitly further discrimination of trans, intersex and gender non-conforming individuals and remove their civil protections.

Following the memo, The Student Health and Counseling Center published an open letter to students, stressing that its policy hasn’t and won’t erase the value of trans, nonbinary and intersex people. The letter was signed by Cindy Schorzman, the center’s medical director, and Paul Kim, the center’s interim director.

“We see you,” the letter said. “You exist. You are our students, our friends, our coworkers, and our family. You cannot be erased; you are indelible. In these uncertain times, please know, with certainty, that you are intrinsically valuable as a human being. Nothing anyone else says, or does, or even passes into law, can ever change that fact.

The letter also stated that “Intersex, transgender, non-binary, agender, and gender nonconforming students are vital to our campus,” and deserve the same respect and consideration as any other student.

Monae Roberts, the interim director of UC Davis’ LGBTQIA+ Resource Center, recently published a letter addressed to students who are impacted by these potential changes in public policy.

“To the UC Davis Community, we understand that many of you are concerned by the Department of Health and Human Services’ most recent plan to establish a legal, binary definition of sex under Title IX,” the letter read. “Please know that we are also concerned about this decision, particularly what it means for our trans and intersex community members. The decision to legally define sex and gender under the law, as binary and static, overlooks the various truths of our intersex, trans, non-binary, agender and gender nonconforming community members. Please know that we are here to support you in every way possible and even in some ways that seem impossible.”

Roberts further discussed how the center can help trans, non-binary and intersex students take direct action, organize and community-build, adding that these students have a place at the LGBTQIARC and “in the greater UC Davis campus community.”

“California State has policies in place to protect people against discrimination and our UC Davis community is guided by these very policies, to ensure that every member is validated in their existence within our community,” Roberts said in the letter. “Please don’t hesitate to lean on us and utilize the resources we have to offer, now and throughout the academic year. At the center of our mission is to uplift the marginalized, by challenging all forms of oppression, even in the face of those with far-reaching power. Today and every day we celebrate YOU and applaud your very existence!”

Roberts provided resources for these students and reminded folks to “Remember that YOU define YOURSELF!”

On October 23, Chancellor Gary May addressed student concerns in a press release and identified UC policies in place to protect individuals against discrimination.

”While no policy decision has been made, we share concerns about what any action or decision might have on our trans and intersex community members,” the release stated. “The University of California has policies in place to protect people against discrimination. It is critical that every member of our campus community feels valued for who they are.”

 

Written by Aaron Liss — campus@theaggie.org

 

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