On Monday, a day before an emotional inauguration, President Biden announced that his administration would be forming the White House Council on Gender Equality, a group dedicated to shaping policy for the benefit of American women and girls. According to a press release announcing the council, its main goal is to, “coordinate government policy that impacts women and girls, across a wide range of issues such as economic security, health care, racial justice, gender-based violence, and foreign policy, working in cooperation with the other White House policy councils.”
The council will be co-chaired by Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reynoso, both graduates of Columbia Law School who have decades of experience both in and out of the White House. Reynoso, a Bronx native by way of the Dominican Republic, will also act as Chief of Staff to the First Lady—a change of pace from her post during the Obama administration, where she worked as US Ambassador to Uruguay and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. Klein was a senior advisor during Hillary Clinton’s campaign and was a senior domestic policy advisor when Clinton was First Lady; she also serves as the Chief Strategy and Policy Officer of Time’s Up. The qualifications of these women stretch for miles, which shouldn’t be anything surprising but considering the former administration had a penchant for hiring fascists who did what they were told, it’s both refreshing and confusing to see such sturdy resumes.
The council and the appointment of Reynoso and Klein are being widely praised by feminist organizations and leaders for the emphasis it places on taking a closer look as to how domestic and foreign policy directly affect women. However, for all its platitudes about uplifting women economically and ensuring their political protection, what is notably absent from the announcement of this council is how it plans to protect and economically uplift trans women and girls.
When it comes to the issues this council intends to tackle head-on—healthcare, economic security, gender-based violence—trans women have historically been excluded not just from the conversation on policy but from any protections offered. Of course, there is hope that the Biden administration plans to protect trans women under this particular council, considering President Biden’s recent executive order to “fully enforce Title VII” and prevent discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. But to borrow a line from a star of the inauguration, Jennifer Lopez, the proof is in the paperwork.