Just a few days before President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE left office, the head of his Justice Department (DOJ), Civil Rights Division sent out a memo suggesting that employers could use their religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against “homosexual or transgender” employees.
Surely they knew this last-minute effort to limit protections for LGBTQ people would quickly be reversed by the next administration, but it gave them one last chance to send a message of disrespect to the LGBTQ community. That message was repeated over and over the past four years, saying we were unfit to serve in the military, unwelcome in school sports and not worthy of adequate health care.
Fast forward a few days and President BidenJoe BidenMadame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures US raises concerns about Russian troop movements to Belarus Putin tests a model for invading Ukraine, outwitting Biden's diplomats MORE begins the first day of his administration with an executive order calling on all federal agencies to ensure LGBTQ people are protected in schools, health care, the workplace and all aspects of daily life. Biden’s nominee for secretary of State announced that U.S. embassies will be allowed to display the pride flag without restrictions and that he will appoint an envoy for LGBT Human Rights to address violence against LGBTQ people around the world. Visitors to the White House website are provided a contact form that allows them to share their pronouns. And now transgender service members can once again serve openly.
Each of these policy changes boil down to one difference: respect. Respect starts with recognizing another person’s right to exist. These initial actions are a heartwarming contrast to the politicians who suggest that simply acknowledging the existence of trans people is divisive. The new administration has started their leadership with a strong message for LGBTQ people and so many other communities — we see you, we support you and we respect you for who you are.
There’s much to do for the administration to build on this foundation of respect for the LGBTQ community. As a next step, the government should grant full recognition to transgender and non-binary people by giving access to IDs and records that reflect who we are. Biden can do this with an executive order that allows for self-attestation of gender markers — meaning people can confirm their own gender without needing medical verification and adds a gender neutral “X” designation on all federal IDs and records. This would allow non-binary and other people to have a more appropriate gender marker than “M” or “F.”
Having access to an accurate ID is a cornerstone of respectful interactions and allows us to travel, apply for jobs and enter public establishments without risk of harassment or harm. Right now not all trans and non-binary people can obtain an accurate passport, social security record or immigration document because of burdensome and unnecessary requirements to show medical documentation to update the gender marker, and because there are only binary options. Nearly 20 states have already updated their policies to allow self-attestation and an X designation on state licenses and IDs. It’s time for the federal government to catch up and to ensure every trans person across the country has access to an ID that matches who they are.
Respect goes a long way. I’m excited to see where it brings our government next and the profound ways that these respectful policies will change us as a society.
Arli Christian is a campaign strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union.