Students organize to protest gender memo

Sawyer Loftus, Assistant Breaking News Editor

Members of the UVM and Burlington transgender and non-binary communities gathered to send a clear message to President Donald Trump: “We will not be erased.”

Nearly 250 students, faculty and community members organized Oct. 29 outside the third floor of the Davis Center to protest a memo obtained by the New York Times that showed potential changes to the federal definition of gender.

First-year Jordan King was one of the organizers of the rally, they said. King and other members of the UVM Queer Student Union felt like they needed to respond after learning that the Trump administration may seek changes to the legal definition of gender, King said.

“What we really felt was necessary was getting support on campus, letting people on campus know that we are here and we’re a community that exists, that won’t be erased by a federal administration,” King said.

Students and community members gathered to demonstrate the impact these rollbacks would have on the transgender community at the University.

Demonstrators assembled and chanted “the gender system must be broken, I am not your fucking token,” and “L-G-B-T, we demand equality.”

The demonstrators marched down from outside the third floor of the Davis Center to the Andrew Harris Green between the Davis Center and the David W. Howe Memorial Library to continue the rally.

The changes proposed in the memo would define gender by an individual’s biological sex at birth,  according to the Oct. 21 Times article.

The changes proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services would narrowly define gender under Title IX, a federal law banning gender discrimination in education.

If the changes being considered by the Trump administration were formalized, they would roll back progress made  under President Barack Obama to loosen the rules and regulations around gender, according to the article.

Members and supporters from the transgender community were invited by QSU to speak, share stories and discuss the impact the law change would have.

President Tom Sullivan joined the demonstrators to let students know he and the administration are working to address concerns raised by transgender students.

“I would note, in terms of progress, we still have concerns on campus,” Sullivan said. “The University has been working for two years diligently and we will continue to make progress on your issues and on your rights with regard to facilities and related issues.”

The University and Sullivan stand behind students despite the challenges that are coming from around the country and Washington, Sullivan said.

“There is nothing more important that we can do on this campus than to ensure your safety, your wellbeing and your dignity,” he said. “We as a university are going to protect [you] and your status and recognition.”

The University will continue to work toward addressing the issues put forth by the trans and non-binary communities on campus, Sullivan said.

Ben Kennedy, a learning coordinator at the Tutoring Center, began his transition nearly five years ago while at the University, he said in his speech.

To Kennedy, the Trump memo is another “abhorrent”  act against the trans community, he said.