November 23, 2018 at 11:43 am PST | by Karen Ocamb
Transgender erased

Obama trans guidance no longer on OPM website

Black Friday is the perfect day for the government to release bad, controversial news. The second in-depth climate change report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was moved up from December, prompting speculation that its focus on the cost and impacts on health, water and infrastructure is not an analysis welcome by the Trump administration.

Now, eagle eye Zack Ford, LGBTQ Editor at ThinkProgress.org, has discovered that any mention of “transgender” has been removed from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website.

“Under President Obama, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees all federal employees, issued detailed guidance protecting transgender people in the workforce. As of Friday, that guidance has disappeared and been replaced by generic language with no content specific to transgender people,” Ford reports.  “The previous “Gender Identity Guidance” page, which was still live as of earlier this week, laid out definitions for terms related to transgender identities, and outlined specific expectations for respecting transgender employees. These included ensuring that trans workers could dress according to their gender identity, that they were called by their preferred names and pronouns, and that they were allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.”

Though language on the new site still includes the words “gender identity” in the overall guidance on its non-discrimination policy, generic terms have replaced specific definitions.

Ford—who has consistently filed in-depth reporting on the treatment of trans people— notes how vital information has just been erased:

“Two vital sections have been erased without a trace: both the section on respecting employees’ names and pronouns and the section addressing access to ‘sanitary and related facilities.’ There is no longer any guidance whatsoever to ensure that trans people are respected according to their gender identity in the federal government. Should a manager have questions about how to respond when an employee comes out as transgender, they will find no answers on OPM’s page…. The changes to the page came without any announcement or notice.”

Meanwhile, in a one-two-punch the administration hopes will escape attention, the Trump Administration is trying to bypass the normal judicial appeals process by leap-frogging over three different courts and going directly to the US Supreme Court to decide the challenges to  Trump’s transgender military ban in Doe v. Trump, Stockman v. Trump, and Karnoski v. Trump. Four federal courts have already issued preliminary injunctions in the total of four lawsuits, thus halting the ban while the cases are being heard. If the high court takes up the administration’s request this term, lifting the injunctions would be part of their consideration.

Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed reports:

“In Friday’s filing, echoing previous arguments against inclusion within the military, Justice Department lawyers, citing Pentagon policy, write that “the Mattis policy reflects the military’s reasoned and considered judgment that ‘making accommodations for gender transition’ would ‘not [be] conducive to, and would likely undermine, the inputs—readiness, good order and discipline, sound leadership, and unit cohesion—that are essential to military effectiveness and lethality.'”

“There is no urgency here and no reason for the Court to weigh in at this juncture,” said Jennifer Levi, GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director in a Nov. 23 press release.The injunctions preserve the status quo of the open service policy that was thoroughly vetted by the military itself and has been in place now for more than two years. This is simply one more attempt by a reckless Trump administration to push through a discriminatory policy. The policy flies in the face of military research and dozens of top military experts.”

“The great majority of people in this country recognize that transgender people who can meet the same standards as others should have an equal opportunity to serve,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director. “Allowing President Trump’s ban to be implemented would upend thousands of lives and weaken our Armed Forces.”

“As Americans come together and give thanks for the sacrifices made by our brave servicemembers and their families, the Trump-Pence Administration is focused on undermining our military by tripling down on this discriminatory ban,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California which brought the Stockman case on behalf its members; the State of California is also part of this lawsuit. “There are thousands of transgender service members bravely serving the nation with distinction. The Administration ought to be thanking them for their service—not trying to score political points by purging them from our military.”

Right now, oral arguments in Doe v. Trump are scheduled for Dec. 10 in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Blade about the New York Times story last October on Trump’s proposal that could redefine transgender out of existence, Rep. Adam Schiff said House Democrats would fight to stop such erasure.  “The administration’s efforts to define the transgender community out of existence is among its most pernicious acts,” Schiff said. “It’s just appalling. We are going to obviously fight this tooth and nail.”

But Democrats do not take control of the House until January and there’s a lot of damage and erasure Donald Trump and his administration can do before then, with the complicity of the silent Republican majority. However, Schiff also said he believes that the attacks on trans people impacted voters in the midterm elections – which means the LGBT community can apply leverage in local races in 2019.

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