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November 17, 2016

Transgender Rights Under Trump—What Now?

Transgender pride flag vector isolated on white. All elements sorted and grouped in layersIn the wake of the elections, transgender people across the country are struggling to understand what the future may hold for our communities.

In the past two decades—and especially in the past eight years under President Obama—we have made so many gains in employment protections, health care, student rights, family law, asylum, federally funded housing programs and homeless shelters, and other areas. In addition, President Obama has protected federal benefits programs and made health care accessible to millions of previously uninsured people, as well as increasing funding for HIV-related services.

What does the future hold under President Trump?

I remain optimistic that we will not see major rollbacks of the gains transgender people have made in the past two decades. Many of those gains are based on federal civil rights statutes and federal court precedent, which cannot be quickly undone. I am also optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court will affirm that Title IX protects transgender students in the case now pending before them. Many states have also enacted policies and laws protecting transgender people, and social acceptance has reached a critical mass that will only continue to grow. There is much for our country to fear from the incoming administration, but there is no immediate reason to believe that transgender people will be a particular target, though certainly we may lose some executive agency protections and will no longer have a strong champion in the White House.

I am most deeply concerned about the impact of heightened deportation on undocumented transgender people, many of whom have fled life-threatening situations. I am deeply concerned about transgender people on Medicare and Medicaid, and transgender people living with HIV, as proposals to privatize and cut back on these public benefits proliferate in the Republican Party. Many transgender people in this country are living in poverty and hanging by a thread. Any further erosion of our nation’s already paper thin safety net will be devastating for many transgender people who have been pushed to the margins of our society. There is also reason for concern about an escalation of police violence against transgender people, and particularly transgender women, including those who are engaged in survival sex work, and women of color who face race-based profiling and brutality, both from police and others.

It is distressing to see the far right’s elevation of issues around transgender people and restrooms eclipse these broader issues. Like others in our country, transgender people want to be able to live safely, to be able to work and have access to decent healthcare, and to be able to live with dignity. We don’t want to be in the crosshairs of a trumped up culture war.

In the months ahead, it is critical that we join with others to resist any attempts to escalate the deportation of undocumented people, including preserving and expanding the number of sanctuary cities. We must hold the new president accountable to his promises not to cut Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare benefits. And we must push hard for continued and expanded funding of services for people with HIV and for continued access to inclusive and affordable health care.

Transgender people have been used by some on the right—including the new Vice-President-elect Pence—as a wedge to divide and distract our country. Although we are a small group, we have an important opportunity now to use that visibility in positive ways—by joining with others in a newly energized multi-racial, multi-issue movement for health, dignity, and justice for all.

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