We Won't Be Erased: 40 Trans and GNC People Sound Off on Trump's Memo
by Michael Love Michael & Justin Moran
22 October 2018
Yesterday, The New York Times reported on a now widely-circulated policy memo regarding the Trump administration's crackdown on gender and gender identity, that would most directly impact the lives of millions of transgender, gender nonconforming, intersex, and non-binary individuals.
In the memo, the Department of Health and Human Services outlined a biological, old-world definition of sex and gender arguing that both exist within a binary based on "immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth." There within, the memo also discussed eliminating prior steps forward for trans healthcare, housing, and other means of social support services. It would also institute archaic practices such as sex testing, based on one's birth-assigned genitalia, and using birth certificates to definitively decide someone's gender.
All of the above proposed policy changes, if instituted by year's end as the administration is hoping, would be very, very bad. And it goes without saying — but I'm saying right here, right now regardless — that the change would set us squarely in the dystopian too-scary-but-true world put forward by shows like The Handmaid's Tale, a version of America in which "gender traitors," those identifying as non-binary, transgender, or nonconforming, have virtually no rights, and are, at worst, killed. (News flash: This is already happening. Trans people, specifically Black trans women, continue to be savagely murdered for existing at alarmingly high rates — a pattern that can only worsen if emboldened and upheld by the long arm of the law).
I'm angry, but not surprised. This storm has been brewing for some time. (If you're having trouble putting this policy into context, in addition to studying up on the history of heroic activists such as Marsha P. Johnson, maybe you can think of this as a potentially devastating federal redux of those horrifying 2016 "bathroom laws.")
As someone who has long been fluid in my gender performance and identity, who was assigned to the male sex at birth, but has lived for most of my life as a nonconformist to whatever the fuck "maleness" is supposed to mean, both in visual expression and in the attitudes I choose to embrace, I can't help but feel afraid and threatened. I know firsthand what it means to be persecuted by almost daily public violence — at least, the violence I notice when I'm not constantly "turning the other cheek" and otherwise putting on armor to protect myself — ranging from accusatory stares to physical attacks including public threats of murder. What's helpful in the face of that fear? Community. Solidarity. Action.
PAPER reached out to dozens of people for this story, making up a diverse army of voices who identify as trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming, who are here to say to the Trump administration and anyone who supports these extremely harmful, hateful policies: We will not be erased, and we are here to stay. Find their responses to the Trump memo, below. You can also find calls to action to help fight for and encourage the collective liberation of us — all of us. — Michael Love Michael
Today I remembered feelings I didn't ever want to feel again. I remembered being ashamed to show my ID and passport for years because it addressed me as a male when I had already changed my name to Kim and was fully living as a girl. I remembered getting punched in the face in the boys' locker room when I wasn't allowed to change in a separate [room] or in the girls' room even though I fully identified as a girl and had already started hormone therapy by age 12. I remembered psychologists telling my parents I'm crazy, and that they should just shave my hair off and insist on me living life as a boy. I remembered being terrified of the school boys' restroom and sitting in class contemplative for hours if I should risk going to the boys' restroom to go pee in fear I would get yelled at or physically harmed. I remembered the tears running down my face when I woke up on the operation table at 16, and what had felt like an eternity of hating myself washing away — me for the first time in my life being able to identify with my body and liking myself. I remembered the suicidal kid I once was waking up every morning afraid of growing a beard or an Adam's apple — afraid of my voice getting deeper. The 5-year-old kid I was, trying to cut off my own genitals with paper scissors — crying when my mom told me when I was old enough, they would do anything in their power to help me live as a girl and for the first time having hope for an attempt at a happy life. I have dedicated my life to making people understand that being transgender is something that has always existed and will always exist — that it is not a mental illness. Today, I fear for transgender kids all across America. Just know we'll never stop fighting for you and that the LGBTQ community has your back. Don't give up.
Follow Kim Petras on Instagram (@kimpetras).
Disgusting, extremely non progressive, and modern day genocide. If Trump thinks that this and any other of his administration's discriminating policies will "Make America Great Again" he's truly insane. Him winning already made America look terrible, but the going backwards and erasing of things that Obama has done makes America look even worse. We'll never be "great" as long as Trump is in office. These times we strongly need community. Yes, this is targeting transgender people but this also effects the LGBT community as a whole. Think about those who have yet to come out as transgender. As a whole the LGBT community is doomed as long as Trump is calling shots. We must fight at the polls in 2020 to end this devilish deconstruction of our existence and our country.
Follow Chae Buttuh on Instagram (@medusamamii).
When you can easily stay warn at home, or watch TV, or be distracted by Tinder, whatever it is that people do avoid the world collapsing around them — this is exactly the way the world ends. Everyone knows that, but we've been trained to be distracted, more than ever before in the history of this species. This is the old trick: when the people who have stolen power have a problem that they cannot resolve, the oldest strategy is to identify a minority, preferably one that's easy to mischaracterize or stereotype, is to say the world's problems are all because of them. "They're going against God's will," they say. But in fact, God is male and female. This is the only interpretation of the Jewish and so-called Christian Bibles. If everyone is made in God's image then God had to make women and men out of the same self. Therefore God is a pandrogyne. The human body is not sacred, but the human heart and mind are. The only way that power and control and continue is in an either/or society, universe, and political situation. Black or white. Muslim or Christian or Jewish. The original texts of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve suggest they were hermaphrodites, which are divine beings. [If you consider that then] you know that what the White House is doing, ironically, is going against God. We are moving toward reclamation of our divinity. Trans people are divine. All people are ultimately pandrogynes, whether they accept that or not. The reintegration of conflicting urges and definitions have to become equalized and absorbed into unity. Then as a species we can survive; we can evolve. And become the divine self. To those old white men in their '70s and '80s who are terrified of change and think the 1950s were the best time ever, because women stayed in the kitchen and take pills and hid away and had sex in dangerous places and were ashamed if they were found — they want to bring all of that back. Not because they don't like homosexuals or trans people, but because they want control; they want power; they want to maintain their sense of superiority. That's what we're up against. It's a holy war. We are doing God's work by becoming godlike. Trans people are godlike. They are the storm troopers of the future.
Follow Genesis P-Orridge on Instagram (@pandrogyne).
The Trump administration has ferociously attacked my community again. Just as an FYI Mr. President — the military is the single largest employer of trans people in the world. This leaked memo is an unacceptable attack on my community. We will not be erased!
Follow Caitlyn Jenner on Instagram (@caitlynjenner).
This isn't anything new to us. The state has continually failed to recognize the identity of people in the TGNC community, and has proven over and over again that it will not protect us, from detrimental policy change to aggressive violence against our most vulnerable. We live constantly, some more than others, on edge, fighting for the lives that we want for ourselves. So we've found ourselves faced with another "now, more than ever" moment. Get out and vote. Show up for your siblings. Take care of yourself. Turn anger and frustration into tangible action and show up for our community.
Follow Hutch Hutchinson on Instagram (@hutchasaurusrex).
To anyone who still supports President Trump and the current leadership of the GOP: I can only hope that due to the privilege you were born into, you are too ignorant or unaware of what so many of your fellow citizens are facing to fully understand how dangerous and selfish you are actually being. You need to know that as a direct result of your actions people's lives are being placed in grave danger and many will die. If you voted for President Trump and his cronies and still support them in spite of the policies they are implementing, you are inarguably and unequivocally a collaborator in the destruction -both literally and figuratively- of innocent lives. I am not exaggerating. Your silence, your vote, and your complicity will make you an accomplice to murder. I beg you to please wake up before it's too late.
Follow Mx Justin Vivian Bond (@mxviv).
At turbulent times we will not remain silent: we will buckle up and, propelled by love and determination, ride straight through the eye of the stormy cloud of discrimination and hatred.
Follow Sprite Chu (@spritechu).
Never forget Marsha [P. Johnson] who threw that first brick at Stonewall for all of our liberation! Hold that brick at your third eye and in your heart as we fight this political BS!
Follow Enid Ellen on Instagram (@mxenidellen).
I fear we be are being used as a midterm election diversion. Trump is known for creating news stories instead of buying ads. I am not saying we should not worry, but I suggest vote for every Democrat you can. Do everything you can to get others to do the same. Let's worry about this seriously after the election. Let's not be a tool for Trump.
Gender is such a limiting construct. Just because our government hasn't been able to evolve past its Stone Age definition of gender doesn't mean that I should have to suffer the consequences.
Follow Ammo on Instagram (@loveistheammo).
Trans people have always existed. History, science and religion have already confirmed that. We will not be erased by white supremacy, colonialism or the Trump Administration. We have overcome greater obstacles and we ain't going nowhere.
Follow Lourdes Ashley Hunter on Instagram (@lourdes_ashley_hunter).
Erasure is the blood that we stand on as trans humans. We're erased from our families, our friends, and of course from a fucked-up CIStem. This administration's attempt to make us disappear will eliminate vital support to a vulnerable population that is unwaveringly familiar to dealing with hardship. These are the wounds that call forth the Divine Strength from within to be seen and heard. I won't be erased.
Follow Lucky Michaels on Instagram (@luckymichaels).
To be quite honest, there are thousands of trans women of color who are already discriminated against in the work place, public spaces, and incarcerated due to lack of access. Having to do survival sex work, and engaging in alternative economies. People already objectify us based on whatever genitalia we may or may not have. Wake the fuck up. This isn't anything new. I'm not any more afraid than I was before. But perhaps those of the trans community who already have more rights based on the color of their skin should be scared because now, the government has said you and me are the same. We're all in this boat together now. This memo will not stop me carrying on into the next day, week, month, nor year. They can genetic test this bussy all they want. These hips will continue to sashay towards my dreams.
Follow Ah Mer Ah Su on Instagram (@staramerasu).
What surprises me is how this memo reflects a need to adhere to biology and science. But the facts stand against this latest attempt to strengthen the gender binary. My intersex friends and loved ones would not even be categorized into the sinister testing suggested. No one should be subjected to cruel and unusual invasions of privacy. This administration has supplanted science with religion and so called conservatives are cheering on legislation that puts our lives in danger.
Follow Jacqalin Maple Keeling on Instagram (@cacklin_jacqals).
I'm a non-binary human and I'm angry. The desire of this sham of a government to not only dictate what our trans/non-binary/GNC community has access to and protection from is scary. This isn't "just identity politics." It's our lives. It's telling a growing percentage of youth that they're not valuable. It's telling an existing population they're not valuable. It's telling the wider world that America is not a land of equality, though we already knew that. The anger and fear voiced by my community is loud, but we need cis-gender people to step in and say this is not OK. To not do so is to be complicit in hate.
Follow Nina Kossoff on Instagram (@ninakossoff).
If the Trump administration succeeds in establishing a new definition of gender as the sex you're assigned at birth, it obviously threatens my ability to be recognized in this country — not just as a transgender male athlete, but as a transgender human being. But the government has tried to erase trans people so many times before, and we continue to persist, exist, resist — as always, we will bash back.
Follow Patricio Manuel on Instagram (@team_pat_manuel).
Trans people have existed for centuries and do exist today. Changing the definition will not change who I am — but it could make my life, and the lives of trans and gender expansive people across the United States — much more difficult. Transgender people are people, worthy of dignity and respect — and legal protection — like every other person. I think this is a call to action: we need everyone at the polls on November 6 voting for candidates who will stand up for human and civil rights.
Follow Chris Mosier on Instagram (@thechrismosier).
Nothing threatens white toxic masculine patriarchy and privilege like trans bodies and minds existing with purpose against colonialism and control. He can place barriers on my community if he likes, but we will always exist.
Honestly, trans and gender nonconforming people have been around since the dawn of time. Sometimes we are celebrated, and sometimes we are condemned. Although the road has been difficult and we have lost many siblings along the way, they will never succeed at eliminating us. We have always been here and will always be here.
Follow Ris Gumpert on Instagram (@rismas.presence).
The personal is political; it's so disheartening to know that our government is taking such interest in the genitals of its citizens and allowing for our erasure. It is a blatant attack on our civil rights. I am overcome with fear and anger, more so than usual. The Trump administration must see how harmful to so many people this decision can be, and it leads me to believe that it is an all-out attack on trans and GNC folk. This means war.
Follow Jasmine Infiniti on Instagram (@jasminexinfiniti).
When I first read what was available from the memo, I noticed the erasure of many intersex folx from the proposed legal definition of sex. While I feel hopeful for the TGNC community because we have a lot of collective power through action, I also hope we can remember that when the government is trying to tear us down, they sometimes tear down others in the process. We are a community of many issues; we take care of one another. I also recognize that even when the government has passed recommendations before, individual institutions have created their own guidelines that are LGBTQIA+ welcoming and inclusive. The timing and nature of this can feel scary. It is helpful for me to remember the spaces I access have been safe, open to improving their safety policies and practices, and I believe they will only become more culturally competent with time.
Follow Scout Silverstein on Instagram (@wickedlittletown).
In response to Trump's wanting to do away with transgender as an option for so many of our friends and loved ones has to be the loudest alarm bell that's been rung for our civil liberties. This is just the beginning, next will be overturning Roe vs Wade, then marriage equality. Our only ace in the hole is to get out and vote, pick up your phone and call everyone you know to get out and vote on November 6. Especially if you have friends and family outside of NYC. We have to take back our power through the only means necessary. Vote, Vote, Vote!
Follow Brian Belovitch on Instagram (@bb1186).
Our presence is permanent. It's a shame how right when it seemed like there was about to be a breakthrough for transgender people and gender equality rights, the government declares erasure. For our rights, we will fight, we will thrive.
Follow London Jade on Instagram (@londonxjade).
Unfortunately for the administration, we are not going away any time soon. When a group of people become silenced and condemned for who we are, we have only one choice: live louder and rise above. What I ask those narrow-minded individuals in return: Are we really defining each other based on the sum of our parts? What about intersex children born with both parts? Are we going to deny them the right to choose gender? What if a woman can't conceive a child, does that make her less of a woman? Or a man with a small penis, is he less of a man? There are many concerns I have for this discussion, but my energy is better focused on inspiring my trans brothers and sisters through the power of my expression. I love my shenis and ain't no man going to tell me otherwise. It's showtime!
Follow Love Bailey on Instagram (@loveisbailey).
We can't let history repeat itself. It's crucial for our rights to not be erased. Future generations will be queer/trans — they can't stop us. Our voices must be heard now louder than ever.
Follow Gami on Instagram (@yasgami).
Follow Tzef Montana on Instagram (@tzefmontana).
It was so disheartening to hear of the news, it feels like another moment in what has been a long year of global structural and legal infringements on trans people's humanity. We need more than ever cisgender people to no longer be silent in their support of our community. We need committed, bold, and loud support. We cannot do this alone.
Follow Travis Alabanza on Instagram (@travisalabanza).
As a trans WOC, I don't believe that any of what's coming up as of late is news. However, I do believe that because it's being written down that people are suddenly finding the urgency to rally together because they're suddenly feeling affected in some way. The proximity of their freedom is in question and their ability to exist legibly is at risk. Looking back over this past year, we've lost 22 trans WOC to unforeseen circumstances that went pretty much unquestioned. So I wonder where was this energy then? Some of us have been fighting from the beginning and have endured tremendous amounts of trauma on a daily basis to obtain the absolute bare minimum. However, I'm happy to see that we now have the support from all sides of the community. I'm happy that people are realizing that we're in this together.
Follow Imma Asher on Instagram (@she_already_done_had_heriiss).
We belong to ourselves, and we know exactly who we are and why we're this way. No amount of paper, legislation or bigotry can strip me of my worth and self-love.
Follow Aaron Philip on Instagram (aaron___philip).
This is a devastating blow to decades of trans and GNC organizing for protections for our communities. However, this is not just about the Trump Administration — this is about the transmisogyny and intersex erasure in all facets of society. It's not enough to condemn the trump administration, we have to uplift and resource trans, gender non-conforming, and intersex people on all fronts.
Follow Alok Vaid-Menon on Instagram (@alokvmenon).
We need direct and active allies, enough discussing what we could do and more effective action. We need our cis and trans mothers, fathers, siblings and family to stand up relentlessly against erasure and violence against us. We need our stories shared and discussed freely. We need to address issues and create forum of resolve. We are dying. We are actively being targeted. We are being erased. But if we don't say anything, nobody would know. We can't be quiet, we can't stand still, we can't be fearful. Our stories are older than the ancient scriptures and laws that are now being used to bind us. We need education and judicial reformation. We need to know about intersex individuals and complexities of sex and how it differs from the complexities of gender. There are 60,000 different variations of trees yet I can be murdered for declaring there are more than two variations of gender.
Also, let us not forget:
This isn't just about the eraser of trans people. This is about the eraser of non-eurocentric culture. A gender system based on genitalia is a negative effect of colonialism that we still practice. Europe and parts of Asia were the only parts of the world that followed this system until England, Spain, and France colonized the Americas and Africa. In West Africa, where they were colonized and the English began buying and selling humans, there were trans Gods, shaman, and individuals. After colonization, they started to speak English and French and have a gender system. Similarly here in the States, Native Americans were also GNC and essentially only the two-spirit could be shaman and leaders. When the Americas were colonized they murdered trans/GNC people to remove them from power. Now we have a strict gender system and speak English, and essentially only white men can be lawmakers and leaders.
Follow Cae Monāe on Instagram (@caemonae).
I personally feel this administration is so determined to strip people of their human rights. I am not surprised by this at all, but you cannot erase people. This should be a fire lit under us to go out and vote. We need to get new and updated people in these positions. Old men who are set on going back to these "old ways" should not be the ones determining our future. This is a new day and age, and we need to get people in office who are about moving forward, not going backwards.
Follow KC Ortiz on Instagram (@kayceeortiz).
The American dream has always been an American lie. Freedom then does not exist if you are black and trans. Your body is not your own, it belongs to your country. Your country allows you to be violently killed for living your truth. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can only be secured if you're a cis, white, straight man. Everyone else must collectively fight for it while suffering. I've learned that man cannot exist without human suffering. The rich benefit from the poor, the prisons will always be for profit, survival is becoming a crime punishable by death, and equality is a myth. The whole reason for democracy was to give power to the people. But it is slowly being taken away and given to companies and lobbyists? The Trump administration is dividing Americans in order to conquer those who believe in freedom. There has been a silent exchange of democracy to Dictatorship. As the leader of the free world, it's your responsibility to fight for the freedoms and safeties of all your people no matter the sex, race or genetic marker. Making impulsive decisions that adversely affect the success and/or development of any person based upon how they were born — to deny them civil rights is not only an act of violence, but it's also criminal to create a world that would deny employment, housing, education, healthcare and banning trans people from serving in the military. This is dangerous to health, safety and the livelihood of more than 1.4 million trans people — and the world, if only selected gender can fight to protect the existence of all. Make America Great Again should not mean Make America Hate Again. Trans people are people who deserve love, acceptance, safety and a little more TLC. Our existence should not be dying to live, it should be having the right to live and die like any other red-blooded human being. People should be judged on their individual contributions, not their genitals or genetic marker. Trans rights are human rights.
Follow Shea Diamond on Instagram (@iamsheadiamond).
To my trans siblings: I see you, I love you, I need you. And then, to cis folks: This is the space between visibility and justice. This is why visibility is not enough. Trans people have never been so heavily visible, and we have never been so heavily targeted. 2018 is the most violent year on record for trans people in the U.S. That violence disproportionately targets Black transwomen and non-Black transwomen of color. So I could say something about how trans people have always existed, how we cannot be legislated out of existence, how we will survive this like we have survived so many other attacks. But the truth is we won't all survive this. The truth is that violence against transpeople will continue to increase, and the most marginalized among us will continue to be killed, and the rest of us will continue to share each news article online #SayHerName and #BlackTransLivesMatter. The space between visibility and justice isn't theoretical. It's 28 Black and brown transwomen murdered in less than 10 months. white people and cis people need to wake up to that reality, and start acting accordingly. We stand witness to genocide, so what are we doing to stop it?
Follow Imp Queen (@imp_kid).
The President of the United States is telling all trans people that we do not matter and that our kind would be better eradicated. This makes it okay for other people to do it, and that puts the most disenfranchised trans women at the most risk. If i hadn't transitioned, I would have killed myself — Trump thinks we're better off dead. All of my sisters and I have to go through so much shit every single day and we don't break down. We exist and we are strong AF.
Follow Ariel Zetina on Instagram (@arielzetina).
Dear Trump admin, you can try to erase my existence of being a trans woman in this shit country called America. But trying is a failure, cause clearly I'm still fucking here.
Follow Quay Dash on Instagram (@quaydash).
Who you are is valid. This has no power over that.
Follow Chella Man on Instagram (@chellaman).
Within my narrative, being trans has ignited the flame to stand up for my existence, both in my field of work, as well as within the parameters of society's constructs. I've been in the bubble of navigating through life and work as an artist for 8 years plus. Many think that my career as an artist makes me immune to discrimination and injustice but that is not true. I still have to overcome misogyny as a feminine person in business, being ostracized and questioned by personnel in airports internationally, or casually defending trans existence within my family. Despite all the micro-managing of my identity, here we have the current gatekeeper of America reinforcing all the hurdles we leap over with stride on a daily basis. Regardless of the progress we have made in our recognition as transgender individuals, the underlying discrimination still exists but we have managed to not allow it to prevail within our fantasies of simply living. With this rollback at risk, we now face the reality of the underlying injustice becoming the forefront of justice — enabling discrimination in the work place, medical field, scholastic settings, legal settings and any other place or service a human needs. We are not looking to be accepted, but to be respected — respected for the work we do, the same work any other human is capable of. We are not afraid of criticism, as we will fight back with activism. But as for the erasure of trans existence, what tactics are we left to use to fight against a social genocide?
Follow Ms Boogie on Instagram (dearmsboogie).
I'm not the least bit surprised by Trump trying to erase the legal identities of trans people. But the fact of the matter is that many of us (myself included) still don't have our identities legally recognized to this very day. And we've survived. As a trans person who has been transitioning since the early 2000s, I know what it's like to be turned down for job after job because we're transgender. But there have always been two options openly available to trans women. One is sex work. The other is drag. Over the past decade, RuPaul's Drag Race has discriminated against trans people in the industry, essentially erasing us from our own profession, culture, and community. I have survived this long with an M on my drivers license. I would not, however, have survived without drag to keep a roof over my head. For me, it hurts much worse when it's our own community trying to erase us from it... than someone we saw it coming from all along.
Follow Sara Andrews on Instagram (@misssaraandrews).
This fight is for all of our non-binary/trans angels out there and we will never be silenced. We need to vote to be heard!
Follow Lulo on Instagram (itslulo).
Trans Women of Color Collective
Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement
Organizacion Latina de Trans En Texas (OLTT)
Borealis Philanthropy's Fund for Trans Generations
Photos via Instagram