Eric was born with two healthy testicles and a Y chromosome. He grew to discover his behavior and interests are culturally feminine. Eric wishes to be called Erika and live life as a woman.
Some say Erika is delusional. We are born male or female as a matter of biological fact. Erika ignores this fact and worse: she asks the same of us. She would have us defer to her preference on everything from which pronoun we use to address her to which changing room she is allowed access. To comply, they say, would be to deny fact in service to a confused fantasy.
This view commands a certain “no-nonsense” appeal, yet it’s hard to overstate how misguided, uninformed, and damaging it is.
Transgender Is Not a Form of Denial
Bad analogies abound on this topic. A popular blog recently compared the transgendered to a malnourished anorexic who believes she is overweight. Some would say Erika may as well claim to be Abraham Lincoln for all the good it would do. She can play dress up and change her name, but she will never become our 16th president.
The difference is that Erika does not deny reality. She accepts that she has a Y chromosome. She knows full well she was born with a male sex organ. She simply does not believe these facts impose restrictions on the way she behaves, identifies, or engages with society. She is hardly a radical.
As a man, Eric is uncomfortable in his own skin. He feels self-conscious about his clothing. His social interactions feel unnatural. We all agree that this is a problem for Eric. It is the conservatives, not the progressives, who insist that denial is the solution.
Yet decades of research on gay/transgender psychology (including study of so-called “conversion therapy”) are conclusive: denying their nature is not a viable option. Thankfully, when you ask the people who know what it means to feel same-sex attraction or identify as another sex, they can tell you what works. Over and over, they tell us that accepting their nature is what works for them.
Trans-deniers insist that sex (a quality they consider sacred as well as binary) is identical to gender. Yet when we decide whether to use the pronoun “he” or “she,” we seldom have a person’s genes or sex organs in mind. We choose pronouns based on complex aesthetic and behavioral indicators, and while gender and sex may correlate more often than not, they can refer to different things. When it comes to gender association, very little is black and white. If you want to measure anything, you need a sliding scale. When we pick out clothes or choose to behave in a certain way, we consider our self-presentation and comfort level, not our gene sequence.
And the rub: not even biological sex is binary. At the level of the genome, different combinations of our sex chromosomes are possible. XX, XY, XXYY, XXXY, XXX, and XYY are all groupings we see in humans. There are even biological males with the (typically female) XX pair. About one in 1500-2000 people is born with noticeably atypical sex organs, and some of these have both sex organs. It is not always clear based on genetics or physiology what sex, let alone gender, a person is. Sometimes you have to listen when they tell you.
Most conservatives have given themselves a pass here. They are interested in biology when it can be used in their service but are otherwise quick to shrug it off. This is all just evidence that our gene pool has been corrupted by a “sin fallen” world, they say. That’s between them and God, they say. Do not allow such dismissals from those aiming to dictate who marries whom and who uses what changing room. Do not let them shirk the responsibility they have so eagerly taken upon themselves.
Having lost the argument on gender, conservatives have retreated to the bathroom. This is not about discrimination, they tell us, but about the safety of the most vulnerable among us: the women and children. If they give ground here, perverts and pedophiles will invade our restrooms. In fairness to conservatives: though this may seem a desperate scare-tactic, it is also pathetic and an utter fiction.
If a man wants a peep in the ladies room, “I feel like a woman today” will never earn him the right. Incidentally, the only men who use ladies rooms are from conservative groups trying to keep the hysteria alive. It’s illegal to peep at people while they use the toilet, regardless of the sex of the parties involved. If you get caught doing it, you will get arrested. No one (not even Obama) will spare you.
Don’t be mistaken: transgendered men and women have already been using the restroom that makes sense to them. Notice that there is no “cross-dressing pervert problem.” There has never been a documented case of a transgendered person sexually assaulting someone in a public restroom. This is an imaginary diversion from the truth.
Ultimately, our opponents think gender is a sacred thing God assigns people at birth (though he occasionally botches the job). Like gay marriage, they must conceal their real motives, since arguments from “the will of the Almighty” are no longer serviceable in Western politics (thank God). Whereas they told us gay marriage was about protecting “traditional definitions,” states’ rights, and Kim Davis’ religious freedom, they claim resistance to transgendered rights is all about safety. In reality, they are both about the same thing: they violate conservative religious principles.
You can be sure this isn’t about safety because there is an actual safety concern here, and they don’t care about it. More than two in three transgendered people experience some form of harassment in bathrooms. It is not safe for a teenager who identifies and appears female to use the boys’ room for reasons that are obvious.
More On What Is Obvious
Here is my position in a single sentence: those who live as men should not be made to use the ladies room, and vice versa. The solution is just that easy because the problem isn’t real.
No one chooses which gender attracts them, and no one chooses which gender they identify as. Like everyone else, transgendered people can’t live happy, fulfilled lives acting out a role that doesn’t suit them. So they have asked us to let them be who they are and enjoy the same basic accommodations we do. You may not understand them, but we can all understand that.