OPINION: Here’s what the incoming Biden/Harris administration can do now to improve the lives of transgender people

by Carl Charles | Lambda Legal
Thursday, 19 November 2020 10:31 GMT

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Jill, and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and her husband Doug, celebrate at their election rally, after the news media announced that Biden has won the 2020 U.S. presidential election over President Donald Trump, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 7, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

On January 21 the Biden/Harris administration can roll-back a list of anti-trans rules put in place by the government of President Donald Trump

Carl Charles is a staff attorney at Lambda Legal

As most transgender people, including non-binary people, living in the United States will tell you, it has been a long four years.

This is not to say that our lives were free of difficulty under the Obama administration, but we are sure a far cry from when former Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on live television: “To the transgender community: we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side.”

For the past four years, it has not felt like history, nor certainly anyone in the federal government, has been on our side.

The explicit harms that the current administration has wrought on the trans community are well catalogued, but, in brief, protections against discrimination in every part of trans people’s lives have been attacked, curtailed or all together rolled back. This includes access to healthcare, education, employment, housing, emergency shelter, public benefits, and military service.

Even just the simple acknowledgment by the federal government that trans people exist in this country, and that the rights enshrined in the constitution extend to us, too, were erased.

In honor of Transgender Awareness Week, which began on November 13 and ends on Friday, November 20, with the National Transgender Day of Remembrance, here is a non-exhaustive list of actions that the incoming Biden/Harris administration can prepare to do now, and immediately roll out, on January 21, 2021, to significantly improve the lives of millions of trans people living in the United States.

. Release all trans people currently being held in immigration detention

Reverse the current administration’s changes to the Federal Bureau of Prison’s rules regarding the housing of incarcerated trans people

Reverse Executive Order 13828, which created barriers for low-income people  to access federal benefit assistance including Medicaid and SNAP

Appoint Department of Housing and Urban Development leadership who will ensure trans people have safe access to emergency shelter and will reinstate the rule protecting trans people from discrimination by homeless shelters and other housing services that receive federal funds

Appoint Department of Health and Human Services leadership who will overturn anti-trans measures by taking the following actions:

1) Initiate new rulemaking to revoke the regulatory changes to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act that disproportionately impact trans people

2) Permanently close the “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” within HHS

3) Initiate new rulemaking to reinstate the national collection of data on tribal and LGBT+ foster youth and foster and adoptive parents and guardians

 4) Reinstate the collection of information about trans older adults in the National Survey of Older Americans

Appoint Department of Education leadership who will support and protect trans youth in schools and take the following actions:

1) Initiate a new rulemaking to revoke the recently published Title IX final regulations on sexual harassment and sexual assault on college campuses

2) Initiate new rulemaking affirming Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination protects trans students in educational programs that receives federal financial assistance

Appoint Department of Justice leadership who will investigate the epidemic of violence against Black trans people and take guidance and direction from local and state LGBT+ anti-violence groups on how to begin to address the epidemic

Direct the Department of Defense to immediately overturn the current administration’s unscientific ban on open military service by trans people and immediately reinstate the Obama Administration’s 2016 Carter Plan

Reverse the September 2020 Executive Order requiring all federal contractors to halt mandatory diversity and inclusion training programs

Update the websites of the White House, the Department of State, and all federal agencies with relevant and inclusive language about trans people

These actions are certainly not all that can be done to ensure transgender people are able to live safe and healthy lives, but they are immediately impactful steps that the incoming administration can take to turn the tide in the fight for trans equality.


With Twitter pronouns and victory speech, Biden-Harris signal new era for trans rights

LGBT+ rights groups hope Biden win helps marginalised communities

Aspiring U.S. trans soldiers call on Biden to end military ban

Update cookies preferences