President Joe Biden marked Transgender Day of Visibility on Thursday by denouncing “hateful bills” being passed at the state level as the White House played host to “Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider, the first openly transgender winner on the popular quiz show.
Schneider met with second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who joined Rachel Levine, the assistant health secretary and the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate, for a conversation with transgender kids and their parents.
Schneider used the moment in the Washington spotlight to speak out against bills affecting transgender people.
“They’re really scary and some of them in particular that are denying medical services to trans youth, those are, those are lifesaving medical treatments,” Schneider told reporters. “These bills will cause the deaths of children and that’s really sad to me and it’s really frightening.”
Biden, in a brief video message, said that “the onslaught of anti-transgender state laws attacking you and your families is simply wrong.” The president said his administration “is standing up for you against all these hateful bills. And we’re committed to advancing transgender equality in the classroom, on the playing field, at work, in our military and our housing and health care systems.”
The administration announced several actions to make the federal government more inclusive for transgender people and said the Health and Human Services Department will be the first agency to fly a trans pride flag.. The steps come as Republican leaders have advanced state measures targeting transgender people as part of a broader push to stoke culture wars heading into a critical election season.
The administration said the federal government will become more inclusive for transgender people, including through the use of a new “X” gender marker on U.S. passport applications, beginning on April 11, and new Transportation Security Administration scanners that are gender-neutral.
It is working to expand the availability of the “X” gender marker to airlines and federal travel programs and will make it easier for transgender people to change their gender information in Social Security Administration records.
Visitors to the White House complex soon will also be able to choose an “X” gender marker option in the White House Worker and Visitor Entry System, which is used to conduct screening background checks.
At airports, changes will be made to screening scanners along with the introduction of the use of an “X” for travellers going through Precheck who do not identify as male or female. Transportation Security Administration agents will receive new instructions on how to make screening procedures less invasive and will work with airlines to promote acceptance of the “X” gender marker.
“Jeopardy!” star Schneider spoke of “being a trans person out there that isn’t monstrous and isn’t threatening and is just a normal person, like we all are,” and said “the more that people like me can be seen, the harder it is to sustain the myths that are … kind of driving a lot of this hate and fear.”
In his video, Biden said there is work still to be done to end “the epidemic of violence against transgender women of colour and girls of colour” and to ensure that transgender seniors “can age with dignity.” He called anew on Congress to pass the Equality Act to help transgender people around the world “live free from discrimination and violence.”
Biden tried to reassure any transgender person who is struggling, telling them to remember that “you’re not alone.”
“You’re so brave. You belong. And we have your back,” Biden said.
The administration’s actions follow recent steps at the state level to limit activity by transgender people. At least 10 states have banned transgender athletes from participating in sports at all levels in a way that is consistent with their gender identity.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking reelection, has ordered the state’s child welfare agency to probe reports of gender-confirming care for kids as abuse.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is running for reelection and considering a 2024 presidential bid, on Monday signed into law a measure that bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. The law has drawn intense national scrutiny from critics who argue it marginalizes LGBTQ people. Republicans and advocates of the law argue that discussion of these topics should be between parents and their children.
Associated Press writers Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Colleen Long and Ben Fox contributed to this report.