People generally like to keep things simple. Black and white, right and wrong, men and women. But of course things generally aren’t all that simple. More often than not there are annoying shades of grey.
Gender would seem simple. It’s all determined by our sex chromosomes. Women have two X and men one Y and one X. Perfectly straightforward. But not always. Sometimes a person has two X’s and a Y, others three X’s.
Now what? Well, typically if someone has a Y, no matter how many X’s or Y’s, they have the body parts of a male. If someone doesn’t have a Y, they have the body parts of a female.
But sometimes the genes don’t do what is typical and cause people to be born with a sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit into an exclusively male or female classification. A person’s sex chromosomes may say one thing, but they’re sexual anatomy something else. In rare cases two embryos may merge in the womb building a body that is chromosomally both male and female.
Some people, regardless of their chromosomes or their body parts, just feel like a female, or like a male. And, not surprisingly, they want to be what they feel they really are.
Gender identity is not confined to girl/woman and boy/man nor is it static; it exists along a continuum and can change over time. According to no less an authority than Scientific American “The Idea of two sexes Is overly simplistic. … New technologies in DNA sequencing and cell biology are revealing that almost everyone is, to varying degrees, a patchwork of genetically distinct cells, some with a sex that might not match that of the rest of their body.” And, of course, sex can be be medically and legally altered.
In other words, some black and white, many greys.
All this has driven Olympic officials, who tend to be binary thinkers, absolutely crazy. And not only Olympic officials. It torments America’s social conservatives, including their Republican representatives.
They were not happy with the progress of gays. The closet, they thought, was the appropriate place for them, and they did their best to keep them there. But they insisted on coming out and when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the American Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, social conservatives felt betrayed. Society was clearly in decline.
Ever in need of a villain to galvanize their supporters, Republicans found a new target: trans people. Republican politicians, when they are not busy banning books or fighting wokeness, are busy harassing the transgendered. At least 20 Republican-governed states have enacted anti-trans laws.
Arkansas enacted legislation that made it illegal for minors to receive transition medication or surgery. Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate certain gender-affirming care for transgender children as possible child abuse. (The American Academy of Pediatrics says care should be available to minors and it opposes legislative bans.)
The Texas Department of Agriculture is ordering its employees to comply with a dress code that dictates they dress in a “manner consistent with their biological gender.” The state has passed a law which requires all public school students to compete in athletic competitions based solely on their assigned sex at birth, the 10th state to enact such legislation.
Montana’s legislature has refused to allow Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a transgender woman and a Democrat, to speak since she told supporters of a bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors that she hoped they would see “blood on [their] hands.” (The American Medical Association says gender-affirming care is “medically-necessary, evidence-based care that improves the physical and mental health of transgender and gender-diverse people.”)
In North Dakota, transgender children and adults will no longer be able to access bathrooms, locker rooms or showers that match the gender they identify with in places like college dorms or jails.
The Republicans seemed to have found their cause du jour.
Not that there aren’t legitimate issues with the transgender movement. Many conventional women (those born that way) are understandably apprehensive about ex-men invading their spaces.
Allowing trans women to compete in women’s sports would seem highly unfair to conventional women who haven’t had the benefit of years of high testosterone levels beefing up their muscles. And then there’s those annoying idiosyncrasies about pronouns. I wouldn’t dare suggest that good old-fashioned “it” may be appropriate for the non-binary.
In any case, all this legislation is hardly called for. Republicans, it seems, would rather go on the attack than engage in conversations about how reasonable concerns can be fairly addressed. But rational discussion among reasonable people won’t fire up the social conservative troops, so war it is.