Reason Roundup

Trump Administration Might Axe Title IX Protections for Transgender Students: Reason Roundup

Plus: Harvard on trial for discriminating against Asians, and look who's a YIMBY


Robin Rayne Nelson/ZUMA Press/Newscom

The Trump administration is considering an approach to anti-discrimination law that would define gender as "biological and immutable," according to The New York Times. The Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, would consider a person's gender to be tied to the sex organs possessed at birth—meaning that the government would now ignore the wishes of trans men and women.

This would have huge implications for a number of federal programs, including public schools. The Obama administration held that Title IX, the federal statute mandating sex equality in education, required equal accommodation for trans students who wanted to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender expression. The Trump administration has already walked back that guidance, but now it reportedly plans to go further.

This is all according to a memo obtained by The New York Times:

The [Department of Health and Human Services] argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined "on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable." The agency's proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one's sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

"Sex means a person's status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth," the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. "The sex listed on a person's birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person's sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence."

It's true that the Obama administration's expansive interpretation went well beyond the original purpose of the one-sentence statute. Whether all schools are obligated to accommodate the exact demands of gender dysphoric youngsters is a delicate question, and one that existing law is poorly equipped to answer.

But the proposed policy seems gratuitously cruel toward trans people. There's nothing desirable about the government forcing people to identify as their discarded birth sex. If the government attempts to override individual choice and identity, that negates self-ownership.


Harvard is on trial for allegedly discriminating against Asian-American applicants, and week one of the proceedings was bruising for the admissions department. Even some who support affirmative action more broadly were put off by revelations that Harvard officials seemed to subscribe to lazy stereotypes about Asians, rating them negatively on subjective criteria like personality.

"It's angering to witness the dismissive, sweeping way that admissions officers discuss Asian-American applicants," writes Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. "The writing-off of these students as nondistinctive, interchangeable kids smacks of racist stereotypes often used against Asians in this country."

Asian Americans had the lowest admission rate among all racial groups from 1995 to 2013. If Harvard admitted students based solely on merit, Asians would constitute 43 percent of the incoming freshmen class. But due to legacy admissions, athletic recruits, and race-based preferences for black and Latino students, Asians represent just 18 percent of the student body.

"Contemporary affirmative action has failed millions of Asians pursuing the American dream," writes Kelley Babphavong, an Asian immigrant and a junior at Harvard, in a piece for The Wall Street Journal. "The plaintiffs challenging Harvard have already shown that Asian-Americans are held to higher standards than others, and often their rejection boils down to the single factor of race."

A loss for Harvard would not spell the immediate end of affirmative action. The issue is likely to end up before the Supreme Court, either way.


Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is apparently on board with zoning reform but, sadly, thinks "capitalism has failed in all aspects."


  • Saudia Arabia has admitted that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered but is denying the crown prince's involvement.
  • Something called "Politicon" took place in Los Angeles this weekend, and it sounds just as insufferable as you might have imagined.
  • Michael Avenatti was there, of course.
  • Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels and possible presidential contender (Lord help us all), apparently owes millions in taxes, though shaky financials are not actually a barrier to becoming president, it would seem.
  • Surprise, surprise: A professor of creative writing has an incoherent stance on cultural appropriation.