Trump and Transatlantic Transgender Rights

On the 23rd of February, US President Donald Trump withdrew federal guidance that permitted for transgender American schoolchildren to be allowed unfettered access to toilets and locker rooms that corresponded to their gender identity. This move seemly contradicts the surprisingly tolerant stance the Trump campaign took and has raised fears of further rollbacks of LGBT rights under the Trump administration.

Stonewall Cymru, an organization committed to promoting positive attitudes towards LGBT people and laws to protect them reacted negatively to this news out of the US. ‘The decision made by the Trump administration to revoke guidance which was created to protect trans students is alarming. By refusing to protect the right for trans students to use the bathroom at school for the gender they identify with, the President is not keeping his commitment to maintain progress made on equal rights for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in the USA’ they stated in a press release. ‘This is both an equal rights and safeguarding issue for trans students in America, many of whom are subject to terrible abuse in their schools, and could be a worrying sign of things to come for all LGBT people in the United States.’

Former Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler alongside Stonewall activists in 2011.

At the US federal level there is little in the way of protections for transgender people with the only notable example following the recent rollback being an Obama era executive order barring discrimination against transgender individuals by the federal government and it’s contractors. Wider laws on the status of transgender individuals is mostly a matter of state law and varies widely. States such as Tennessee and Ohio for example will not amend a transgender individual’s birth certificate even if the individual has undergone gender reassignment surgery. Furthermore, states such as Texas and Florida have no state-wide laws barring discrimination against transgender individuals in employment, housing or public accommodation. 21 states including California, Washington and Hawaii do have statewide laws protecting such rights and a number of states which do lack state-wide protections have more limited protections at the jurisdiction level.

In the UK, transgenderism was declassified as a mental illness in 2002 and ever since the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, transgender individuals can change their legal gender if proper of evidence of their transition is presented to a Gender Recognition Panel. There has historically been difficulty in making such laws compatible with UK laws on marriage and civil partnerships, often forcing the annulment of the existing marriage or partnership upon a spouse changing their sexual identity. The legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013 has served to ease these difficulties however. The first laws aimed at tackling discrimination towards transgender individuals in the UK came into effect in 2003 and currently take the form of the 2010 Equality Act, ensuring equal access to employment as well as public and private services for transgender individuals.