Over the Thanksgiving holiday, ThinkProgress reported that guidance protecting transgender people in the federal workforce were quietly removed from the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) website. As ThinkProgress noted, the guidelines offered definitional and practical information on how to better ensure that trans employees have essential workplace protections and are free from harassment. The decision to remove that language is just the latest in a series of actions the Trump administration has taken to strip federal protections from trans people in the workplace and at school, but according to audio obtained by Government Executive, Natalie Veeney, the OPM’s diversity program manager, reportedly explained the change to an LGBTQ employee group as a way to “afford agencies more discretion in responding to the needs of their workforce” and give agencies more “autonomy.”
In other words, OPM believes that federal agencies should have more freedom to discriminate how they best see fit. (This mirrors language the administration used when rescinding guidance on protection for trans students: framing an erasure of basic protections as an expansion of freedom for local schools.) Previously, the trans guidances on OPM’s site directed managers to use their trans employees’ preferred names and pronouns and ensure access to bathrooms consistent with their gender. The guidance also noted that even if employees had not yet changed their name legally, agencies should “adopt procedures that allow employees to use the name of daily usage or first initial in or on email accounts, employee directories, business cards, name tags, and similar items.” Basic, but essential, stuff.
Now, as Government Executive reports, OPM added a new general section entitled “Guidance Regarding Non-Discriminatory Practices in Federal Employment,” which doesn’t mention protections for trans employees at all. According to Government Executive’s report, Veeney more or less tells LGBTQ employees that they are on their own: “You have to be strategic and specific now that we don’t have this policy in place specifically. You have to be active.”
In a comment to Government Executive, OPM stated, “The administration is fully committed to providing a workplace that is free from discrimination, as outlined in law.”
During the call, as Veeney reportedly explained the latest step the Trump administration has taken to undermine trans people’s basic rights and expose them to greater violence and discrimination, she also told those on the line that her office’s bigotry was “hard for me as well.”