In response to the Trump administration’s effort to narrow the definition of gender, Zion Solomon, an A.S. Senator and second year history of public policy major, held a tabling event at the Arbor, coupled with a social media campaign, on Thursday to raise transgender visibility and show love for the community.
Last month, The New York Times detailed a leaked White House memo which described the Department of Health and Human Services attempt to define gender under Title IX as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”
If implemented, this restriction would exclude transgender and gender nonconforming individuals from protection against discrimination, denying recognition of their existence. Specifically, it would disqualify transgender individuals from filing gender discrimination lawsuits in education programs, such as in the case of students who are not allowed to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.
UCSB graduate student and transgender woman Stephenson Brooks Whitestone told The Bottom Line, “This is a giant step backwards for the treatment of trans people in the U.S., particularly since the emergence of the trans community in the last five to 10 years when our numbers grew as far as being out, being visible.”
“Should this go into effect,” Brooks Whitestone said, “trans people [will] no longer have protection from discrimination when it comes to things like jobs, housing, medical benefits — and that is obviously tremendously threatening to trans people, that we would be so blatantly discriminated against.”
Solomon described their visibility campaign at the Arbor as “a physical manifestation of all the support and positivity and joy” surrounding the transgender community.
Following two days of poster-making at the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Solomon and a coalition of volunteer supporters set up posters and distributed informative flyers, resources available to the transgender community, and helpful tips on being an ally.
Stationed at four tables outside the Arbor, the group garnered much attention from passersby as well as supporters who knew the event was taking place. The event was held in conjunction with a social media campaign on Oct. 31 wherein participants posted digital copies of the flyers handed out at the Arbor on Instagram and Facebook.
In addition, the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network (SB TAN) held a protest rally in response to the leaked memo on Oct. 23 at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
Ezra Michel, volunteer coordinator for SB TAN, spoke to The Bottom Line about coming together as a community against the administration. “When I found out about the memo from the Trump administration I felt sick to my stomach,” Michel said. “But then I thought about how much our community would benefit from coming together and channeling our anger into something beautiful.”
Although the plan to narrow the definition of gender mainly targets transgender and gender nonconforming people, Brooks Whitestone emphasized the recent threat of hateful rhetoric against all marginalized communities.
“We have to start sticking up for each other. This is not a time for us to think of ourselves in a bubble and just concentrate on how my community is being hurt or being threatened,” Brooks Whitestone said.
If members and allies of targeted communities stick up for each other, she explained, they will find that they are more powerful than previously imagined. “I think we’re just gonna have to look inside ourselves and find ways that we can continue to exist, and to thrive, and to fight.”