After an emotional appeal from the mom of a transgender 5th-grader, Chicago aldermen demanded Wednesday that President Donald Trump “cease and desist” his “blatant discrimination” against 1.4 million Americans who identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth.
“I’m 100 percent certain that my gender, your gender, and my child’s gender is for the person to decide. Otherwise, I don’t think my kid would be transgender because we really tried,” said the mom, who identified herself as Rachel.
“My daughter is a girl because she knows she’s a girl. The most important organ for her gender identity is her brain. Her soul is female. Her spirit is female. Just like my spirit would be female even if an accident took away some of my female body parts, God forbid.”
The explosive policy change was outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a memo disclosed last month by the New York Times.
It urged federal agencies to define a person’s sex as either male or female and base that designation on a person’s genitals at birth. If there’s confusion, genetic testing would be the determining factor.
On Wednesday, the City Council’s Committee on Human Relations approved a resolution condemning the policy change after an emotional hearing featuring Rachel’s testimony.
She asked that cameras in the City Council chambers be turned off to protect the “safety” of her daughter, who “socially transitioned from male to female” at age 8. That was around the time Rachel made her first appearance before a City Council Committee.
“I told you then about how miserable she had been, being mislabeled as a boy. I told you about how we earnestly tried to socialize her as a boy to make it clear to her how boys were supposed to behave and talk and who they were supposed to play with and how,” Rachel told aldermen.
“Despite our efforts, she knew who she was. She knew her gender — just as I did when I was her age. … Our gender identity is like air. We don’t realize we have it unless something goes wrong. And she realized early on that something was going really wrong.”
Rachel said her daughter is 11 now, “living her life, pretty much as a regular 5th-grader.” She does gymnastics. She’s in the school play. She texts friends, most of whom have no idea she’s anything but a “regular girl,” the mom said.
“Life isn’t perfect. But her light shines brightly. She has a spring in her step. It’s hard to imagine what a miserable child she once was,” Rachel said.
Channyn Lynne Parker echoed Rachel’s sentiments. She identified herself as transgender and spoke for Howard Brown Health and the Broadway Youth Center, which serves Chicago’s transgender population.
Parker called the Trump Administration’s efforts to “narrowly re-define gender as being biological and determined by birth” a “deliberate and extremist strategy” to eliminate Title VII and other federal protections for trans people. That, she said, will “undermine our welfare and rights.”
“To render trans people to the identity assigned at birth strips such individuals, including myself, the dignity, humanity and inherent right to self-determine and self-identify,” Parker told aldermen.
“I am further frightened of a future where I, as a trans woman, could be subjected to genetic testing to counter what I have known all my life to be intrinsically right. Allowing the passage of such prohibitions creates a pathway to other direct violations of human rights, giving way to discrimination in health care, housing and employment just to name a few.”
Mona Noriega, chairman of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations, noted that Chicago has been going in the opposite direction.
Here, everyone is free to use the public restroom that corresponds to their gender identity, not to the gender they were assigned at birth.
Human Rights and Fair Housing ordinances expressly prohibit housing, employment, credit or any other form of discrimination against transgender individuals. The Chicago Public Schools have implemented a similar policy to guarantee locker room, overnight trip and after-school access to transgender students.
In 2015, Chicago also began to offer transgender city employees health coverage for gender reassignment surgeries and services.
“Despite these gains in recent years, the Trump administration is engaged in a concerted and systematic effort to erase transgender and inter-sex individuals from American society,” Noriega said.
“Perhaps more than ever, it is important to show these communities that Chicago is with them.”