The Inequality of the Equality Act: Concerns from the Left
Heritage Foundation, January 27, 2019
Who could be against a law that promises equality and bans discrimination? Parents who’ve already experienced grief, despair, and witnessed medical harms as they attempted to get help for their gender-confused children. Medical experts concerned about how adding "gender identity" into civil rights law would cause physical and psychological harm. People who have transitioned, and then de-transitioned, concerned with what this ideology will do to children. Lesbians who have been punished for having the audacity to say that men are not women. Radical feminists concerned that nearly all sex-segregated spaces, colleges, sports, dormitories, and women's rights in general will disappear if “gender identity” becomes a protected class and the dangers this poses to women and girls.
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Andrew Sullivan: The Nature of Sex
NY Magazine Feb 1, 2019: ...The title of the Heritage panel conversation — “The Inequality of the Equality Act” — refers to the main legislative goal for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ lobbying group in the US. The proposed Equality Act — a federal nondiscrimination bill that has been introduced multiple times over the years in various formulations — would add “gender identity” to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, rendering that class protected by anti-discrimination laws, just as sex is. The TERF argument is that viewing “gender identity” as interchangeable with sex, and abolishing clear biological distinctions between men and women, is actually a threat to lesbian identity and even existence — because it calls into question who is actually a woman, and includes in that category human beings who have been or are biologically male, and remain attracted to women. How can lesbianism be redefined as having sex with someone who has a penis, they argue, without undermining the concept of lesbianism as a whole? “Lesbians are female homosexuals, women who love women,” one of the speakers, Julia Beck, wrote last December, “but our spaces, resources and communities are on the verge of extinction.”
If this sounds like a massive overreach, consider the fact that the proposed Equality Act — with 201 co-sponsors in the last Congress — isn’t simply a ban on discriminating against trans people in employment, housing, and public accommodations (an idea with a lot of support in the American public). It includes and rests upon a critical redefinition of what is known as “sex.” We usually think of this as simply male or female, on biological grounds (as opposed to a more cultural notion of gender). But the Equality Act would define “sex” as including “gender identity,” and defines “gender identity” thus: “gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or characteristics, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.”
What the radical feminists are arguing is that the act doesn’t only blur the distinction between men and women (thereby minimizing what they see as the oppression of patriarchy and misogyny), but that its definition of gender identity must rely on stereotypical ideas of what gender expression means. What, after all, is a “gender-related characteristic”? It implies that a tomboy who loves sports is not a girl interested in stereotypically boyish things, but possibly a boy trapped in a female body. And a boy with a penchant for Barbies and Kens is possibly a trans girl — because, according to stereotypes, he’s behaving as a girl would. So instead of enlarging our understanding of gender expression — and allowing maximal freedom and variety within both sexes — the concept of “gender identity” actually narrows it, in more traditional and even regressive ways. What does “gender-related mannerisms” mean, if not stereotypes? It’s no accident that some of the most homophobic societies, like Iran, for example, are big proponents of sex-reassignment surgery for gender-nonconforming kids and adults (the government even pays for it) while being homosexual warrants the death penalty. Assuming that a non-stereotypical kid is trans rather than gay is, in fact, dangerously close to this worldview. (Some might even see a premature decision to change a child’s body from one sex to another as a form of conversion therapy to “fix” his or her gayness. This doesn’t mean that trans people shouldn’t have the right to reaffirm their gender by changing their bodies, which relieves a huge amount of pressure for many and saves lives. But that process should entail a great deal of caution and discernment.)
The Equality Act also proposes to expand the concept of public accommodations to include “exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays”; it bars any religious exceptions invoked under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993; and it bans single-sex facilities like changing, dressing, or locker rooms, if sex is not redefined to include “gender identity.” This could put all single-sex institutions, events, or groups in legal jeopardy. It could deny lesbians their own unique safe space, free from any trace of men. The bill, in other words, “undermines the fundamental legal groundwork for recognizing and combating sex-based oppression and sex discrimination against women and girls.”….
read … Andrew Sullivan: The Nature of Sex