This seemingly innocuous proposal has sparked a firestorm.
First, a brief background.
Title IX prohibits discrimination "on the basis of sex" in federally funded programs. It was passed in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments Act to ensure that women have access to educational programs equivalent to men's programs.
In 2016, the Obama administration issued a guidance letter reinterpreting "sex" to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The letter required schools to "'treat a student's gender identity as the student's sex for purposes of Title IX." This drastic reinterpretation was done without an act of Congress or even the normal rule-making process for regulations. It was clearly an act of bureaucratic overreach.
And it spurred a frenzy of disputes over trans students claiming access to spaces restricted to the opposite sex—bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, dormitories, sports teams, and so on.
Then, in 2017, the Trump administration rescinded the Obama guidelines. But it left unclear just what the law does require. Hence the administration's current effort to provide a clear, uniform definition of the term "sex."
The memo suggests that "the sex listed on a person's birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person's sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence." In this way, sex will be determined "on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable."
Who could object to science and objectivity? Lots of people, apparently...
The New York Times reported the story with the overheated headline "Trump Administration Eyes Defining Transgender Out of Existence."
Actually, no. The administration is merely saying that Title IX does not apply to trans people. No one is being defined "out of existence." There are lots of laws that do not apply to you or me, and that fact does not deny our existence.
Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor of The NYT, likewise indulged in histrionic overstatement, tweeting, "The Trump Admin has a new definition of sex that would render 1.4 million transgendered people legally nonexistent."
Not exactly. The administration is saying that discrimination "on the basis of sex" means biological sex, not gender identity. Trans people still enjoy all the ordinary protections of other citizens, including the Bill of Rights and all other constitutional rights.
George Takei, the "Star Trek" actor, tweeted, "The Trump administration is trying to make trans people disappear by defining gender as only male and female, determined by genitalia at birth."
Come back to earth, Mr. Takei. The administration is not trying to make people "disappear." The fact is that Title IX was originally intended to apply to biological sex — which, by the way, is established not at birth but long before birth. Most parents use ultrasound to discover their babies' sex before they are born.
Planned Parenthood panicked, tweeting, "This is horrifying. These inhumane, cruel, and discriminatory policies are dangerous." (Ironic, considering that words like "inhumane" and "cruel" describe what Planned Parenthood itself does — tearing apart tiny babies.)