Trump’s Lethal Binary Thinking

This past Sunday, the New York Times revealed a leaked memo suggesting that Trump’s administration is considering a drastic move to roll back protections for transgender people. Their plan is to limit the definition of gender to an “unchangeable biological condition” — either male or female that is determined by genitalia at birth. Not only would this be a monumental setback for the transgender community, but it would virtually erase their existence.

This harmful proposal by Trump’s administration raises the question — are binaries like male and female even so important? And if so, why? Like the buzzing and popular slogan says, “the future isn’t binary”, but if our President is in such opposition, how can certain groups like transgender and gender nonconforming people thrive and survive in society?

On a daily basis, society forces people into boxes — Male or Female? Fat or Skinny? Tall or Short? Right or Wrong? These labels allow for easy and comfortable grouping, but it can be overly simplistic. As a whole, we cling to a traditional and binary way of thinking. This might be because fitting into a binary assures instant belonging, but in turn, we turn away diversity and hault innovative progression.

With simple matters, binary thinking can help us survive. When we make a split decision like whether or not to turn left or right at the traffic light, binary thinking is useful. However, most things in this world are not so elementary. People are complex beings in every way imaginable. In theory, we as Americans are supposed to live in a country that values many freedoms, but time and and time again Trump’s rhetoric continues to argue the reverse. He is not only restricting and denying individuals, but large groups of people who have fought for visibility way before his time.

Our hegemonic world functions as a hierarchical structure that calls for some groups or individuals to dominant and rule over others — i.e.: Trump deciding for others whether or not they’re permitted in society. He uses his power to take away basic human rights from certain groups of people. Binary thinking tells us that the smart people are better than the dumb people, the rich people are better than the poor, etc., and without it, our society would oftentimes not know which way to turn. We are programmed by these labels to dictate who and what fits into the normative categories and who does not, but this is polarizing. Without saying it, Trump is sending the message that he believes that transgender and gender nonconforming people threaten a comfortable and normative space, therefore, we must force them into a box even if that means squeezing the inside so tightly that we inflict great damage along the way.

Trump is creating an inauthentic world by forcing a binary and restricting fluidity. Over the course of his time in office, he has dismantled progress by creating an unhealthy way of solving complex (non binary) problems. Healthy problem solving is not facilitated by avoidance — you can’t just build a wall and pretend no one is on the other side of it — but nonetheless, he continues his combat linearly.

In a way, binary thinking is like thinking in absolutes — there is nothing in between. If Donald Trump continues to think this way, he will continue to circulate toxic and offensive ideologies that will gravely impact many individuals in this country. Binary thinking does not align with reality. Whether Donald Trump wants to see it this way or not, there is something always in between.