Accuracy in Media

What determines gender identity is up for debate. But the way the Trump administration wants to determine it does not meet the approval of the New York Times.

The Trump administration has proposed “defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” the Times reported Sunday in its first story on the issue, “‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration,” by Erica Green, Katie Benner and Robert Pear.

The Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading this move to “define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with,” the Times reported. It says it is responding to a ruling by a Federal District Court judge in Texas that “Congress did not understand ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity.’”

It quoted a department memo it had obtained: “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth. The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

This new definition “would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves – surgically or otherwise – as a gender other than the one they were born into.”

The Department of Health and Human Services said the changes are needed so the department can “adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined ‘on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”

But it’s not good science, the Times argued Monday in “Anatomy Does Not Determine Gender, Experts Say,” by Denise Grady.

“Defining gender as a condition determined strictly by a person’s genitals is based on a notion that doctors and scientists abandoned long ago as oversimplified and often medically meaningless,” Grady’s story begins.

The Trump administration’s plan to return government policy on gender recognition to its pre-Obama state “goes beyond the limits of scientific knowledge,” Grady wrote.

“’The idea that a person’s sex is determined by their anatomy at birth is not true, and we’ve known that it’s not true for decades,”’ the Times quoted an endocrinologist who runs the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System in New York and is president of the Professional Association of Transgender Health.

What does determine gender identity – “a person’s powerful, core knowledge of who they are – is not so clear,” Grady wrote.

Grady goes on to say gender identity comes from the brain, not the body.

“Some put it more bluntly: It originates between your ears, not between your legs.”

She says the forces that act on the brain to shape identity are not understood, and “no one knows for sure why body and mind sometimes do not match.”

What the Times does seem to know is the move is part of a “series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity.”

Neither story has any quotes defending or explaining the move, although one did say that Roger Severino, a Health and Human Services official who may or may not have been involved in the decision, did not respond to calls for comment. They have eight negative quotes by four different speakers.

A former Obama administration Department of Education official who wrote the guidance that is being undone saying both “This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients – what people understand about themselves – is irrelevant because the government disagrees …”

This move “quite simply negates the humanity of people.”

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