The latest in a long line of Trump administration attacks on legal protections for transgender people came on Friday, when the Bureau of Prisons reversed Obama administration rules that allowed transgender inmates to use facilities that are appropriate for their gender identity.
BuzzFeed reported that the change “comes after four evangelical Christian women in a Texas prison sued in US District Court to challenge the Obama-era guidelines, and claimed sharing quarters with transgender women subjected them to dangerous conditions.” The Obama-era rules allowed flexibility for prison staff to make case-by-case determinations that considered the wishes of transgender inmates as well as management and security considerations. But, according to BuzzFeed, the new guidelines issued on Friday “instruct officials to ‘use biological sex as the initial determination for designation’ for screening, housing and offering programming services.”
In their complaint, the Christian inmates reportedly refer to the transgender women as “men,” in keeping with the Religious Right’s strategy, aggressively promoted by the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, of refusing to acknowledge transgender identity and insisting that it is nothing more than a mental health problem. In a March article in the Witherspoon’s Public Discourse, Ryan quoted his mentor Robert George saying, “Changing sexes is a metaphysical impossibility because it is a biological impossibility.”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, criticized the change, saying “the administration is clearly prepared to encourage federal prisons to violate federal law and advance its own inhumane agenda.”