Metro Weekly

Trump banning CDC from saying “transgender” has “potentially catastrophic consequences” for trans people

Donald Trump reportedly wants to ban "transgender" from official CDC documents, a move branded "Orwellian" by health leaders

Trans Pride Flag, Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office / Flickr

Reports that Trump has banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using “transgender” in official documents has caused alarm in health leaders and LGBTQ organizations.

The Washington Post post reported last week that the prohibited words included “transgender,” “diversity,” “fetus,” “science-based,” and “evidence-based.”

The decision to ban such terms from official budget documents was made at a meeting of senior budget officials. According to the Post, reaction was “incredulous,” with people saying, “Are you serious?” and “Are you kidding?”

HRC’s Director of Government Affairs David Stacy called the move to “eliminate entire communities from its vocabulary” a “dangerous attack on LGBTQ people, and fact-based policy making.”

“The move is reminiscent of a time not long ago when the government tried to ignore the reality of the HIV and AIDS crisis to the detriment of millions,” said Stacy. “This kind of erasure has potentially catastrophic consequences beyond the words used by the CDC — it could impact the very programs most vital to the health of women, transgender people, and others. But we will not be erased. The Human Rights Campaign will fight this and other politically-motivated policies, and this decision will ultimately backfire on the Trump-Pence administration.”

CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald issued a series of tweets stating that there are “no banned words at CDC.”

“I want to assure you that CDC remains committed to our public health mission as a science- and evidence-based institution,” Fitzgerald stated, adding, “CDC has a long-standing history of making public health and budget decisions that are based on the best available science and data and for the benefit of all people — and we will continue to do so.”

The CDC oversees several departments critical to LGBTQ healthcare, including the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, which is currently working on ways to reduce and prevent HIV transmission among transgender people.

A Department of Health and Human Services statement called the Post‘s report “a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process.”

However, health leaders and LGBTQ organizations are unconvinced, with GLAAD calling any attempt by Trump to ban certain words from being used “unconscionable.”

“A presidential administration that has been erasing LGBTQ people from day one is now *literally* forbidding his employees from saying we exist,” they tweeted. “This is unconscionable.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, added: “Removing protections for trans students, a proposed trans military ban, and now prohibiting the CDC from using the word ‘transgender.’ We see this for what it is, a dangerous pattern, and a hateful targeted erasure of trans people- and as Americans we will not stand for it.”

The Transgender Law Center tweeted that any attempt to ban the term transgender was a “shameful attempt to quite literally erase us.”

LGBTQ healthcare, research and advocacy organization Fenway Health called the reports “deeply troubling.”

“It does not matter whether there is an outright ban based on ideology, or whether the list originated as a strategy to gain support for the CDC budget among Republican conservatives,” the organization said in a statement. “Telling public health officials working to prevent Zika, HIV and other diseases what words they can use is Orwellian. It is not what we expect to see in a democracy, and such policies—whether they are formal or informal—harm public health.

“Disease treatment and prevention must be driven by science and evidence. That includes the proper use of terminology, such as ‘transgender,’ which describes a population that bears a disproportionate burden of sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, and which also experiences barriers to accessing competent and affirming health care. Accommodating intolerance of people who are transgender by discouraging the use of accurate language is extremely dangerous.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!