Under President Obama, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees all federal employees, issued detailed guidance protecting transgender people in the workforce. As of Friday,Â that guidance has disappearedÂ and been replaced by generic language with no content specific to transgender people.
The previousÂ â€śGender Identity Guidanceâ€ť page, which was still live as of earlier this week, laid out definitions for terms related to transgender identities, and outlined specific expectations for respecting transgender employees. These included ensuring that trans workers could dress according to their gender identity, that they were called by their preferred names and pronouns, and that they were allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
â€śTransitioning employees should not be required to have undergone or to provide proof of any particular medical procedure (including gender reassignment surgery) in order to have access to facilities designated for use by a particular gender,â€ť the guidance stated. â€śUnder no circumstances may an agency require an employee to use facilities that are unsanitary, potentially unsafe for the employee, located at an unreasonable distance from the employeeâ€™s work station, or that are inconsistent with the employeeâ€™s gender identity.â€ť
On the new site, that language and any reference to transgender people is now gone, although the page does still state that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited â€” consistent with an executive order President Obama issued that is still in effect.
Gone, however, are the detailed definitions for the terms â€śgender identity,â€ť â€śtransgender,â€ť â€śgender non-conforming,â€ť and â€śtransition.â€ť Specific references to confidentiality related to transitioning have been replaced with generic language about medical privacy. The pageâ€™s dress code language no longer provides reassurances that employees will be allowed to dress consistent with their gender identity.
Two vital sections have been erased without a trace: both the section on respecting employeesâ€™ names and pronouns and the section addressing access to â€śsanitary and related facilities.â€ť There is no longer any guidance whatsoever to ensure that trans people are respected according to their gender identity in the federal government. Should a manager have questions about how to respond when an employee comes out as transgender, they will find no answers on OPMâ€™s page.
The changes to the page came without any announcement or notice.
From the beginning of the Trump administration, federal agencies haveÂ increasingly erased contentÂ related to LGBTQ people or gender more broadly. TheÂ day after President Trumpâ€™s inauguration, the White House website discarded its page dedicated to LGBTQ rights and the Labor Department also removed a report on LGBTQ workersâ€™ rights.
A few months later, questions that would help identify LGBTQ people in data collection were erased fromÂ two important national surveys. This past July, the Department of Health and Human Services removedÂ language on sex discriminationÂ from its website, and in October,Â it scrapped â€śgenderâ€ťÂ from its civil rights page. Recent reports have even suggested that the administration isÂ trying to remove references to â€śgenderâ€ťÂ in United Nations documents.
While these unannounced website changes have been somewhat inconspicuous, the administrationâ€™s opposition to trans rights has been anything but subtle. A memoÂ leaked in OctoberÂ laid out the administrationâ€™s plans to completely erase trans people from any recognition under any agency of the federal government. People would be defined solely by the sex they were assigned at birth, subject to genetic testing.
This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on November 23, 2018. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author:Â Zack Ford is the LGBTQ Editor at ThinkProgress.org, where he has covered issues related to marriage equality, transgender rights, education, and “religious freedom,” in additional to daily political news. In 2014, The Advocate named Zack one of its “40 under 40” in LGBT media, describing him as “one of the most influential journalists online.”