Shortly before the November election, word leaked that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was considering developing a definition of “sex” that would, in effect, maintain that an individual’s sex was determined at birth and was unchangeable.
In a letter last week, ACE and 28 other higher education associations urged HHS not to pursue this process, arguing that such a definition is unnecessary and bound to cause fear and confusion, and would exclude the identities of numerous faculty, staff, and students already acknowledged by colleges and universities.
Among the associations’ primary concerns is that the approach HHS is contemplating could result in some individuals on campus being perceived as less equal and entitled to fewer rights and processes than their peers.
In particular, many institutions have chosen to embrace transgender and gender non-binary individuals and have tailored their policies in ways that go beyond their legal obligations but are unquestionably permissible under federal, state, and local laws.
“In the simplest terms, we believe that higher education and the students we educate are not served by a federal definition that limits or restricts the identity of an individual,” the groups wrote. “While all campuses differ in their specific approaches, it is important to recognize that they are best suited to determine how they serve their students, consistent with the law.”
For more on this issue, see “‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration” in the Oct. 21 New York Times.