Gender identity vs. sex: What determines which restroom people use?
- 'Gender' is originally a language term used grammatically inside Germanic and Romantic languages (such as German, French, and Spanish) that have gendered (masculine or feminine) words. The idea of this language term 'gender' being applied to human sexuality first emerged in 1955 by Sexologist John Money when he coined the term 'gender roles.'
- Title IX of the Educational Amendments was enacted in 1972 to protect people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.
- Under the Obama administration in 2016, the Department of Justice and Education issued a statement announcing their joint guidance 'to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.' In this notice, the departments explicitly stated how 'both federal agencies treat a student's gender identity as the student's sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX.'
- A February 2022 Gallup report finds LGBTQ identification in the US has ticked up to 7.1%, up from 5.6% in 2021, with nearly 21% of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ and 10% of respondents identifying as transgender.
Mol (Gender Identity)
Not allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms associated with their gender identity is a misguided attempt to delegitimize the trans experience. The concern that this would lead to greater harassment of biological women equates transgender with sexual deviancy. Sexual perversion, harassment, and abuse can develop in anyone. The likelihood of that person also being trans is incredibly slim. According to a 2022 UCLA Williams Institute report, roughly 1.6 million individuals identify as transgender compared to a national population of over 300 million people.
Second, transgender women are not men. Yes, they were born male (or possibly intersex), but transgender women have taken (or are taking) the necessary steps to reconcile their gender identity with their physical being. This process requires therapy and, depending on personal transition needs, hormone replacement therapy, possible legal name change, legal gender marker change, and surgery/ies. This takes significant time and money. But even without those processes being completed, their internal sense of who they are is real. Trans women are women, and trans girls are girls. They have the right to access the correct spaces corresponding to their gender.
Finally, the transgender community is at considerable risk, especially in spaces that do not have inclusive measures and anti-discriminatory laws. Out of nearly 28,000 transgender people surveyed between 2014-2015, 46% of respondents were verbally harassed, 9% were physically attacked because of being transgender, and 10% were sexually assaulted. Ultimately, people want to feel validated by their society and respected by their community. Not permitting someone access to facilities because they do not meet the generalized stereotype of gender is unjustified.
Sex-specific spaces are segregated due to anatomical differences between men and women and for personal privacy, comfort, and safety—especially for women. And it's women who primarily bear the weight of policies that counters their human right to boundaries and protected spaces. Women are consistently the sex most vulnerable to (a specifically male) threat. Asking to keep their spaces separate from biological males doesn't mean women believe transwomen are predacious. It's feminists doing what they've always done—standing for their sex-based rights and the right to speak up and say 'no.'
If being female is simply a state of mind, not based on anything tangible, then feminism (along with homosexuality and heterosexuality) doesn't exist. Sex-based rights require distinction between sexes, but gender identity is described as an 'innermost' feeling, something utterly undetectable from the outside. Furthermore, someone's internal gender identity, a self-declaration of something unseen, cannot literally change one's sex. They enter a woman's space as the opposite sex, the sex they are. So, what about the feelings of girls and women who experience the nullification of their privacy, safety, and comfort?
Discrimination, as chronicled in Title IX, applies only to unchangeable characteristics, such as race and sex. Inner feelings are not those things, as people are not defined by their feelings. Legislation based on such vague, immeasurable, fluctuating, subjective standards of identity—which reinforce regressive, sexist stereotypes (i.e.: wearing a dress, makeup and having long hair makes up a woman)—negates all the sex-based protections women have attained in their quest for equality. Ultimately, the problem is this: one individual's rights, no matter how they identify, cannot supersede the individual 'rights, safety, and dignity' of others.