Over 1,600 Scientists Sign Open Letter Denouncing Legal Redefinition Of Gender

The letter argues that the proposed definition is "in no way 'grounded in science' as the administration claims."

More than 1,600 scientists, including eight Nobel Laureates, have signed an open letter denouncing the Trump administration's leaked proposal to limit the definition of gender as a binary trait based solely on anatomy. 

The letter was written in response to last month's New York Times report detailing a leaked memo from the Department of Health and Human Service that urged government agencies to redefine sex on a biological basis, determined by the genitalia recorded at birth. The proposed redefinition would require any disputes over a person's gender to be settled via genetic testing. 

The memo was met with fierce backlash from members and allies of the LGBTQ community. Thousands took to Twitter to protest using the #WontBeErased hashtag and public protests were held throughout D.C. and in various other locations. Now, the scientific community is also making its allegiance to the transgender and nonbinary population known.  

The opposition letter, endorsed by hundreds of researchers, professors, and scholars from around the world, argues that the proposed redefinition is "fundamentally inconsistent not only with science, but also with ethical practices, human rights, and basic dignity."

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As the scientists point out, "the relationship between sex chromosomes, genitalia, and gender identity is complex, and not fully understood" and there are currently no genetic tests that can unambiguously pinpoint gender. Moreover, the signatories argue that the government is using science as a pretext to "enact policies that overrule the lived experience of people's own gender identities."

"Though scientists are just beginning to understand the biological basis of gender identity, it is clear that many factors, known and unknown, mediate the complex links between identity, genes, and anatomy," the letter reads.

Addressed to "our elected representatives," the letter also reiterates that the proposal ignores the existence of intersex people, those born with a mix of male and female characteristics. "The proposed policy will force many intersex people to be legally classified in ways that erase their intersex status and identity, as well as lead to more medically unnecessary and risky surgeries at birth," the letter says, going on to add that affirmation of gender identity has proven to be paramount to the survival and care of transgender, non-binary, and intersex people.

The letter concludes by calling on the administration to withdraw its proposed policy change. "We also ask our elected representatives to oppose its implementation, as it would cause grave harm to transgender and intersex Americans and weaken the constitutional rights of all Americans," the scientists wrote. "Transgender and intersex people deserve equal access to the rights, livelihoods, liberties, and dignity to which we are all entitled on the basis of our shared humanity."

This isn't the only high-profile open letter to speak out against the administration's gender redefinition. On Thursday, more than 50 major companies, including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, also released a joint statement in opposition of the proposal, writing  "We … fundamentally oppose any policy or regulation that violates the privacy rights of those that identify as transgender, gender non-binary, or intersex."

Cover image via Michael Moloney / Shutterstock.com.

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