This is one of the most shameful, hateful things to come out of an administration defined by shame and hate. This weekend the New York Times reported that the Trump administration is considering narrowing the definition of gender to a “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” An unreleased memo from the Department of Health and Human Services showed the government’s ambition to establish a legal, restrictive, antiquated definition of sex through Title IX, which bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.
Under this guidance, the federal government would seek to codify a falsehood that gender is fixed, binary, and determined conclusively by sex characteristics at birth, effectively erasing the identities of 1.4 million trans and nonbinary Americans in the eyes of the administration. Horrifyingly, any disputes over a person’s sex would be resolved with DNA testing.
This move is anti-science, anti-medicine, and anti-human, and while the HHS memo does not itself have the capacity to strip away the hard-won laws and court rulings for which trans people have been fighting for decades, it does signal, yet again, that there is no line this administration will not cross in its quest to leave a legacy of hate. But we should all know that by now.
1. Voter-Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump by Jelani Cobb (New Yorker)
The crisis of voter suppression in this country, which sees GOP lawmakers craftily rewriting election rules to disenfranchise people of color and perpetuate centuries of minority silencing and subjugation in the service of safeguarding white power, might be the thing that finally kills the American illusion of democracy. I have nothing upbeat to say about this!
2. Hell No to the Memo: 7 Action Items to Protect Trans and GNC People by Out.com Editors and Chase Strangio of the ACLU (Out Magazine/ACLU)
This is an excellent list of seven things you can do right now to supports trans and gender-nonconforming people. #7 is particularly interesting—support trans and nonbinary journalists—because it points out how the New York Timesfailed somewhat (again) to accurately convey the issues at stake:
[The] New York Times article was written by cis people and quotes almost entirely cis people. It also says that the Obama administration “loosened” the concept of gender, which is false: The Obama administration merely promulgated regulations and guidance regarding the meaning of sex under federal law that was consistent with what the courts have been saying for years. Prohibitions on sex discrimination cover trans and GNC people. By stating the Obama administration “loosened” the definition of gender, the Times actually plays into the hands of the GOP and anti-trans activists, who seek to weaponize a misleading notion of biology to contrast it with what they position as a fraudulent and subject concept of gender identity.
3. When Women Demanded Pay for Housework by Lux Alptraum (Topic)
I loved this piece on the ’70s Wages for Housework movement, the radical feminist crusade to secure a government wage for women who perform otherwise-free domestic labor. The movement was based on the idea that women’s liberation could be achieved not (just) through their advancement in the capitalist economy, but by obtaining recognition for the valuable services they were already providing, in the form of compensation. It’s a fascinating look at both the group and its critics from inside the feminist community.
Liberation from housework can’t come from dismissing it as drudgery. It has to come through a recognition of its value, its importance, its necessity. It has to come through a recognition that women’s housework has always has been work—work that women should be compensated for, and work that women should have the freedom to refuse.
4. On the Edge of Seventeen by Sarah Kasbeer (Guernica)
I met Sarah at a writers’ conference in 2016. Her talent is awe-inspiring and this essay about reckoning with a violent incident in her past is timely and devastating.
5. I pulled a 1,500-year-old sword out of a lake by Saga Vanecek (The Guardian)
People on the internet are saying I am the queen of Sweden, because in the legend of King Arthur, he was given a sword by a lady in a lake, and that meant he would become king. I am not a lady – I’m only eight – but it’s true I found a sword in the lake. I wouldn’t mind being queen for a day, but when I grow up I want to be a vet. Or an actor in Paris.
This essay by the eight-year-old girl who pulled an ancient sword out of a Swedish lake is my religion.
Daddy was begging me to rush so he could watch the World Cup final, but I like to take my time about things so I ignored him.
The only god I recognize.
Had a kind of tough week but Simone Biles has a new vault and it’s all the motivation I need to be the best version of myself.
I devoured the first season of The Sinner this weekend. I liked it a lot except for the icky sister shit, which I did not sign up for.
More importantly, Sabrina the Teenage Witch is on Hulu. You’re welcome (actually you can thank my friend Sophie who alerted me to this and who co-hosts an excellent body-positive podcast you should listen to). I’m watching Sabrina from the beginning and it’s the perfect thing to have on in the background while I do my crafts: light-hearted, women-centric, aesthetically invigorating. Sabrina herself is fine, she’s like whatever, but the aunts! The aunts are queens. Smart, funny, independent, unfailingly thirsty, and wicked for good.
I’m realizing now that as much as I thought I wanted to be Sabrina when I was younger, I always really wanted to turn out like one of the aunts. Growing up in a house dominated by a toxic and domineering male figure, I pined for an alternate reality defined by female energy and bustling with shabby chic furniture and shrunken cardigans ornamented with fashion fur collars. The magic itself was icing.