I was pleasantly surprised this morning to read yet another op-ed on transgender issues, on FOX “news” of all places, this one calling for nuance and compromise on the left and right on transgender public policy. The author notes that in the wake of the Dylan Mulvaney Bud Light endorsement controversy, the mainstream media seems more willing to air the right’s side of the issue on biological sex and women’s sports, perhaps pushed that way by the unexpected strength of the backlash.
Both of these are positions that were unlikely to get a fair hearing in the left-leaning mainstream media even a scant year ago. As the fundamental question of gender rushes headlong into public policy in sports, women’s shelters and prisons, and in our education system, both sides of the gender debate suddenly have an opportunity for frank discussion and compromise.FOX News: After the Dylan Mulvaney, Bud Light flap, a surprising twist in the transgender debate
One major problem we have in this debate is the obfuscation of terminology by the left, specifically, “gender.”
Back in the day, when I was first learning that “girls will be boys and boys will be girls, it’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world, except for Lola,” I thought we had this all figured out.
Sex is what you’re born with. Gender is who you are.
Can we not all agree on that? Is that not what we’re all debating?
I thought it was and until about 2014, I thought everybody else was, too.
I thought that everybody agreed that sex was a physical biological reality, observed at birth, determined by sex chromosomes, that made about half of humans have big, strong, fast bodies that produce millions of tiny motile sex cells on demand, and the other half have small, milk-producing, flexible bodies that produce one large sex cell monthly and carry fetuses to term.
Then I thought we recognized that despite the biological and societal pressures that have evolved us humans to think and behave in certain ways based on sex, something we call gender, a spectrum of identity that’s aligned around and between two poles we call “masculine” and “feminine,” a small minority of people are deeply uncomfortable identifying with the realm of gender typically associated with their sex and feel their gender is better aligned with the realm of the opposite sex and express themselves that way.
Then sometime during Obama’s administration, we ended up here in this rhetorical dumpster fire:
In 2022 polling showed that 60 percent of Americans believe that gender is fixed at birth, up four points from the previous year, but still leaving 38 percent who believe that gender is fluid. What is crystal clear is that we are nowhere near consensus on this question, which only leaves the option of compromise.
Both the 60% and the 38% are right, but they’re not using “gender” the same way. The 60% believe, correctly, that sex is fixed at birth. The 38% believe, correctly, that gender is fluid throughout life.
This intentional conflating of “sex” with “gender” is the whole debate. It’s that mid-2010’s pivot from “I live AS a woman” to “I AM a woman” that we’re all fighting about.
When the left says “trans women are women” and the right asks, “what is a woman,” it’s the sex=gender confusion that’s being addressed. If we are to have a productive discussion, we must be clear about terms.
I always try to be clear. Sex is an unchangeable biological reality, observed not assigned at birth, that makes us male and female. Gender is a fluid personality trait, expressed subjectively, that makes us men and women. Most men are male, most women are female, the few who aren’t we call trans.
As I and much of society came to understand that gender was fluid in the early 2000s, back when I was a front-page blogger for a popular LGBT blog alongside trans writers, we began looking at how society is organized around sex and gender. Soon, we recognized that we were mandating certain gender requirements based on sex (e.g. workplace dress codes) or segregation by gender matching sex (e.g. serving in the military) that needlessly excluded or burdened trans people, and we rightfully adapted to the more trans-inclusionary policies we have now.
But then the bathroom debate began. Now the discussion shifted from things we segregate by gender to things we segregate by sex. There was never any logical reason to tell Bob in accounting he’s fired because he wants to wear skirts, lipstick, be called Roberta and use feminine pronouns. But when Bob on the swim team wants to undress in the female’s locker and beat her female competitors by three laps, or Bob’s been convicted of serial rape and now wants to be housed in the female’s prison, this whole AS vs. AM divide is exposed.
The things we segregated by gender were always arbitrary. Who says men can’t be nurses and women can’t be fighter pilots, and why? But the things we segregated by sex were not arbitrary. They were based on objective realities about males: we’re violent, we’re sexually predatory, and we’re bigger, stronger, and faster athletically.
I say objective, because even in the left’s pro-trans rhetoric is the tacit assumption that males are violent. How often have you heard that trans women face levels of abuse and violence far higher than women? Well, who do you think is abusing and beating them… females?
This is why the bathroom and locker debate gets heated. The left gets righteously angry at the suggestion that trans women would be violent toward females. That may be absolutely true, the right thinks, but a man would be violent toward females. And since nobody can articulate how a female is supposed to tell the difference between a male and a trans woman, the right thinks the left is asking females to just take a male’s word for it, because males never lie.
Really. I’ve heard the left say that “no male is going to go through all the trouble of being trans to take advantage of females” about as many times as there are movies and TV shows about males doing exactly that. Or actual incidents of it happening in real life that the right gleefully posts every time it happens.
Objective, because the left’s defense of trans women in female sports relies on the idea of “inclusion,” which is ridiculous because we already have inclusion in sports for both types of human bodies, male and female. And when the right pushes back with the idea that sports should be “open” (anyone competes) and “women’s” (only females), the left rails about how uncomfortable the trans woman would be changing and competing with males.
So, males make women uncomfortable in locker rooms, huh? Interesting. It’s never on males to change their behavior and be more inclusive, is it? It’s never, “guys, you need to respect Lia’s right to privacy, her pronouns, and treat her with respect,” it’s always, “ladies, you need to accept Lia’s swinging Johnson and losing to her by three laps.”
Because we all seem to accept the reality that males are disproportionately awful people to females compared to the reverse.
What’s happening now is the left has come to one of the fundamental aspects of mammalian existence, sex, and in the service of equality for all decided it is irrelevant. And the right, raised in a culture of religion and animal husbandry centered around the reality of mammalian sexual reproduction, can never cede that reality.
It saddens me, because I feel like the overreach on the left is losing a lot of people in the middle who would be staunch allies on gender issues if only the few areas segregated by sex for good reason (sports, prisons, shelters) were maintained. As soon as you start talking about male rapists housed in female prisons or domestic violence shelters, or folks see male bodies dominating female competitors in athletics, no amount of rhetoric can overcome that.
Or take the case of trans kids. The left wants policy established so if a child’s parents are not wholly indoctrinated into the idea that sex=gender and it’s totally irrelevant, that child can lead a secret double-life at school and the school will actively lie to the parents about it.
I know that’s not how the left sees it, so let me try this: imagine your kid at school learned about white nationalism at school and really believed whites were superior. The school, not wanting to harm the child’s identity, allow him to dress as a white nationalist at school, sieg Heil the flag, and keep all this secret from you. Upset now?
It’s a dumb analogy–Nazism is a choice that harms others and being trans is a state of being that harms no one–to make a smart point about the supremacy of parenting over schooling and who molds a child’s identity.
If the left wishes to be free from the oppression of the state prohibiting their right to raise their kids trans, then they need to free the right from the oppression of the state prohibiting their right to raise their kids not-trans.
I think the right is wrong on that, by the way. But that’s an extension of the whole point, which is that in America, we have to find ways to accommodate people who live their lives wrong in our point of view, insofar as they harm no others.