A crowd of people gathered at the Bangor City Hall to support transgender rights on Friday, Oct. 26. The event, coordinated by Maine TransNet, comes in response to a memo from President Trump stating his intention to legally redefine gender based on the genitalia a person is born with.
The event featured several guest speakers in the trans community who talked about their experiences in facing adversity. The crowd cheered as they preached solidarity and talked about how they overcame obstacles.
Benjamin Crowley, a student in the women’s gender and sexuality studies program at the University of Maine, is a member of the trans community who attended the event. He went to stand in solidarity with the community and voice opposition toward the new gender policy proposed by the federal government.
“We have a lot more to worry about in this country than what’s in my pants,” Crowley said.
Members of the Alpha Chapter of Omicron Delta Pi from the University of Maine at Machias, the only all-inclusive LGBTQ fraternity in the state of Maine, according to Alumnus Benjamin Mellerup, attended the event.
“All of our members are in the LGBTQ community or allies. These kids deserve to participate in Greek life, too,” Mellerup said.
Skyler Mushlit is a member of the fraternity who believes ground activism is just as important as social media campaigns. She thinks people mistake Maine for a place that is not progressive in regard to social issues. But, she says, “Maine is a lot more queer than they give it credit for.”
Maine TransNet was started in Portland but has grown into the largest transgender advocacy group in Maine. Ravyn Vanhelsing is the co-chair elect of the organization. She helped coordinate the event on Oct. 26, which drew a crowd of over 100 people from diverse backgrounds.
Vanhelsing fears this administration is forcing a gender identity on people and eliminating freedom for people to choose how they want to be represented legally.
“We need to make a statement that this is a choice that we’ve made, this is our life. If this passes then it will essentially erase our identities from existence and force us into a little box,” Vanhelsing said.
The new policy would only recognize two genders — male and female — and mandate that the gender a person is born with will be their identity for their life. If gender identity is called into question then a DNA test will be conducted to determine a person’s gender.
The Obama administration amended several previous restrictive policies, allowing transgender and intersex individuals the freedom to change the gender they were labeled with at birth. The Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to tightly regulate those policies with a more rigid definition based on birth biology, eliminating the freedom to change their gender identity after birth.
“What they specifically are trying to do is make it so your gender identity is whatever your genitalia is,” Vanhelsing said. “And if you argue that they expect you to do a genetic test, then your gender identity is whatever your genetics say. And they said anything that doesn’t line up with whatever they consider to be the correct science is regarded as an accident, so it’s basically a police state for gender.”
Trump claims this decision is rooted in science and logic. Vanhelsing, on the other hand, doesn’t see valid science in the policy and thinks it could have devastating effects on intersex individuals, forcing a gender to be chosen for them.
“Right now, the intersex communities are fighting for their right to choose their surgeries and if this passes it’s very likely they will be forced into surgery to put them into a gender because they are born, normally, with both genitalia,” Vanhelsing said.
If a person is in need of LGBTQ services on campus they can visit the Rainbow Resource Center in room 224 in the Memorial Union.