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Leaked Federal Gender Memo Concerns Dickinson

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Leaked Federal Gender Memo Concerns Dickinson

Jules Struck ’19, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Students, staff and professors by-and-large expressed concern about recent news of a possible move by the federal government to tighten the definition of gender under Title IX, but Dickinson’s Title IX Office says they are committed to upholding Dickinson’s values of gender diversity.

“I’m both deeply saddened and angered by the proposal made by the Trump administration,” said Fiona Keane ’19. “The idea that gender should be documented and stationary is dangerous on so many levels.”

On Oct. 21 The New York Times reported that the Trump administration “is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” according to an unreleased memo the newspaper obtained from The Department of Health and Human Services. 

The proposed change would alter the definition of gender under Title IX, which “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance,” according to the U.S. Department of Education website. Title IX is a statute under the Education Amendments of 1972. 

Dickinson’s Title IX Coordinator, Katharina Matic, said “I honestly don’t foresee changes” in the way the college’s Title IX office runs. She said that her office is required to submit reports to the federal government of sexual or gender-based biased incidents. Any specific changes to that reporting process would be contingent on the language of the possible change and reporting requirements required by the government. 

“My numbers are typically going to be much larger,” said Matic, indicating that Dickinson’s Title IX office can request a breadth of information not required by the government. 

Matic said “I ultimately don’t know” whether any changes will actually be made by the Trump administration to Title IX. 

Still, the leaked memo and the potential language change did not go ignored by students at Dickinson. “It’s a violation of rights, pure and simple,” said Keane in an message. “Moreover, as someone who identifies as non-binary (neither male or female, but somewhere outside of the traditional constraints of the gender binary), it scares me. It’s been a struggle to have people understand and accept my identity and recognize that it’s a real thing and not just a phase or a trend that I’m hopping on to.”

“This proposal is… willfully ignorant of the psychology of gender development” and human biology, said Megan Yost, associate professor of psychology and women’s, gender & sexuality studies. “We know that it takes years for children to develop their sense of gender identity, including via processes of gender socialization… Scientists have known for decades that sex is not a binary, and that sex is not determined by genitalia at birth or by genetics.” 

“This administration wants to act like gender identity is determined at birth,” Yost said. “All in all, the policy angers me as a person who cares about trans lives and trans rights, and intersex lives and intersex rights.” 

“I was perhaps not surprised but still horrified by the announcement,” said Erica Lawrence, director of the Office of LGBTQ Services. “I believe it is another mean and heartless step by the administration to attack transgender and nonbinary people in this country – folks who already are marginalized in so many ways,” she said. 

Lawrence said “the reality is, the community isn’t going anywhere… The services we provide will not be affected, although certainly I imagine our trans and nonbinary community will feel pain and fear if this becomes a reality.”

“I want to know what the public thinks,” said Matic. She invites students interested in discussing Title IX to make an appointment with her. “I’m looking forward to more conversations.” 

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Leaked Federal Gender Memo Concerns Dickinson