GOP sweep heightens anxiety for many transgender people

Associated Press


Anxiety is high among many transgender Americans after the sweeping Republican election victory. They fear stronger resistance to their push for civil-rights protections, including broader access to public restrooms, and wonder if their newly won right to serve openly in the military is in jeopardy.

Transgender people “are concerned for their safety, survival and legal rights in the coming years,” said Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who often works on transgender issues.

Among the specific concerns:

Many transgender people expect that Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will abandon or weaken the efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to enable transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice at public schools. Republican officials in numerous states have opposed that campaign, saying schools should not be required to let such students use bathrooms or locker rooms based on their gender identity.

There are fears that more GOP-governed states will approve legislation limiting transgender rights and will reject proposals to expand such rights.

There’s uncertainty about the Pentagon’s recently adopted policy of allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military. Some conservative groups, including the Family Research Council and the Center for Military Readiness, have suggested a reversal of the policy. So has GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

“The question needs to be asked: Does this make our military more effective and more lethal?” said Hunter’s chief of staff, Joe Kasper. “It’s hard to see how.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, was cautiously optimistic that the military’s new policy would survive.

More broadly, transgender-rights advocates have been dealing with an outpouring of dismay and apprehension in their community.

Keisling’s organization, for example, had a call-in session Friday to provide advice to transgender people worried that changing their gender designation on federal and state identity documents might become more difficult in the new political environment.

During the presidential campaign, Trump sent mixed signals about his approach to transgender rights.

At one point, he said transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she preferred in one of his luxury buildings – an offer Jenner later took up at the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan. However, Trump has declined to repudiate a divisive North Carolina law that restricts transgender people’s bathroom access. He has said such policy decisions should be left up to the states.

Since his election, Trump has not publicly addressed transgender issues, though he did ease some concerns among gays and lesbians by saying that he considered same-sex marriage to be settled law. Transgender-rights activists remain wary, depicting Vice President-elect Mike Pence and some members of Trump’s transition team as hostile to their causes.

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