GEO Statement on Leaked Health and Human Services Anti-Trans Memo
The Graduate Employees’ Organization, IFT/AFT Local 6300, condemns in the strongest terms the leaked Department of Health and Human Services memo that seeks to redefine sex in federal law as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” This definition would deny transgender people protection under federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. The proposal would limit equal access to health care, housing, education, and fair treatment under the law. It would functionally deny many trans people documentation of their identity, citizenship and immigration status, and the ability to travel freely. For others, it would force them to choose between the life-threatening dangers of the closet and living in a state of constant exposure and vulnerability. It sends a chilling message that the existence and identity of transgender people is not recognized by the government, and deepens ongoing attacks on civil rights. It compounds the threats already facing unions and union members in the form expansion of Right to Work laws and the recent Janus vs AFSCME Supreme Court ruling.
The GEO is a democratic union made up of a diverse population of rank and file members, including graduate workers of diverse gender identities. In our last contract, we fought for and won an expansion of our non-discrimination policy, including protection from discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. We also reached a memorandum of understanding with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Administration that microaggressions constitute discrimination and harassment, and are thus violations of our contract subject to our grievance procedure. We will continue to fight for the safety, well-being, and dignity of all of our members.
The Department of Health and Human Services proposal represents a challenge to the central principle of the labor movement, that unions stand for dignity, rights and equality for all workers. It is a threat to worker solidarity across job categories, between unions and for all genders, ethnicities, races and abilities. We oppose the DHHS memo on the grounds that it promotes a broader context of transphobia and a climate of fear that makes it even more difficult for members to empower each other through organizing. As union members who fight to protect our coworkers, our families and our communities, we oppose the threats to transgender people expressed in the leaked memo. We stand in solidarity with all LGBTQ people who may be experiencing heightened stress, fear or harassment and discrimination at this time.