More than 300 people, most of them members of Portland’s transgender community, gathered in Monument Square Wednesday night to protest a proposed Trump administration policy to define a person’s gender as that listed on their birth certificate.

When news of the proposal was leaked this week by the New York Times, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender leaders across the nation reacted with anger because the measure, if enacted, would deny federal recognition and civil rights protections to transgender Americans.

Though the Portland rally was mostly peaceful, demonstrators showed their anger at Trump and conservative supporters, at one point chanting, “Anti-trans, anti-gay, right-wing bigots, go away.”

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was circulating a memo proposing that gender be defined as an immutable condition determined by a person’s gender at birth.

The proposal would define sex as either male or female, and any dispute would be clarified through genetic testing.

For LGBT leaders, it’s the Trump administration’s latest attack on transgender Americans. Trump addressed the issue Monday as he left the White House for a trip to Houston.


“We have a lot of different concepts right now,” Trump said according to The Associated Press. “They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now – you know as well as I do – and we’re looking at it very seriously.”

Wednesday’s rally was organized on Facebook by Ollie McGowan. McGowan said the crowd surpassed expectations.

“I’m overwhelmed,” McGowan said. “I thought 50 people might show up.”

McGowan described the proposed birth gender designation as a blatant attempt to wipe transgender people from society.

“That is not OK. We need to speak up and be heard,” McGowan said.

In the Facebook post, McGowan wrote, “As many of you know the Donald Trump Administration is trying to erase the Transgender community. He is trying to revoke our rights to change our gender and name legally, as well as stop medications and surgeries from being provided to Transgender individuals. The Trump Administration is putting so many lives in danger by doing this, not to mention all the other groups he has already targeted.”


McGowan said that every voice that stands up against the “President’s discrimination is good!”

Dozens of protesters carried signs to the rally.

Kat Pyburn of Westbrook held a sign that said, “Trans Rights are Human Rights.”

“I fear for the potential of what could happen if this were to become law,” Pyburn said, explaining why she attended the rally. “The opportunity for discrimination is just too great and that frightens me. Life is already difficult enough.”

Elliott Babcock of Portland held a sign that read, “We will not be erased.”

“I came tonight because I am trans and I want to support the trans community,” Babcock said. “I feel invalidated by the president. I feel like we are not important and that we are not being seen as people.”


Gia Drew is program director for EqualityMaine.

“This is so amazing,” Drew said, referring to the large crowd. “I really needed this.”

According to the memo obtained by the New York Times, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that agencies need to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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