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Trump administration reverses Obama-era protections for transgender prisoners

The Trump administration is rolling back an Obama-era protection for the LGBTQ community with a reversal of guidelines designed to defend transgender inmates from being harassed, assaulted or sexually assaulted while in prison. 

The Bureau of Prisons posted a change notice on Friday to their Transgender Offender Manual (TEC) outlining new recommendations to use biological sex as the "initial determination" for housing designation. The TEC was implemented by the Obama administration on January 18, 2017 -- two days before President Trump's inauguration. 

Read the manual here

"The designation to a facility of the inmate's identified gender would be appropriate only in rare cases," the manual now says. "The TEC will consider whether placement would threaten the management and security of the institution and/or pose a risk to other inmates in the institution (e.g., considering inmates with histories of trauma, privacy concerns, etc.)," the manual added.

The manual also removes guidelines for the transfer of an inmate to another institution on the basis of the inmate's gender identity. 

The manual claims that the changes were made to "ensure the Bureau of prisons properly identifies, tracks and provides services to the transgender population consistent with maintaining security and good order in Federal prisons."

The changes, first reported by Buzzfeed News, comes after four women in a Texas prison filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Obama-era guidelines, claiming sharing quarters with transgender women subjected them to dangerous conditions.

The Obama White House's version of the TEC provided instructions on appropriate intake and supervision of transgender inmates, including medical treatment, housing guidelines, and use of pronouns where a focus on the inmate's gender identity was recommended. The original memo was largely based on Department of Justice regulations first implemented in 2012. 

LGBTQ advocacy groups were swift in condemning the administration's move, slamming it as "targeting the most vulnerable."

"There is no justification for this policy shift; it is a deliberate recipe for violence against transgender people based in inexcusable prejudice," Richard Saenz, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney said in a statement. 

The Human Rights Campaign, meanwhile, said that transgender people under the control of the Bureau of prisons will now face "greater risk of violence and discrimination.

"The decision to disregard a  transgender person's gender identity is harmful and disrespectful. This unconscionable decision ignores medical expertise and defies common sense," HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said in a statement. 

The move comes as the latest reversal of an Obama-era protection of the transgender community, following the Mr. Trump's decision last year to ban transgender service members from serving in the military. In March he released an order banning most transgender troops from serving in the military except under "limited circumstances."

The White House said retaining troops with a history or diagnosis of "gender dysphoria" — those who may require substantial medical treatment — "presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality." The Pentagon has said that the policy would have no immediate practical effect on the military because the Pentagon is obliged to continue to recruit and retain transgender people in accordance with current law.

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