Last week, Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk wrote a piece for The New Yorker online saying that the Obama administration’s recent transgender “guidance” for bathrooms, locker rooms, etc., could well create a Title IX crisis. Excerpt:
But there is also a growing sense that some females will not feel safe sharing bathrooms, shower rooms, or locker rooms with males. And if a female student claimed that a bathroom or locker room that her school had her share with male students caused her to feel sexually vulnerable and created a hostile environment, the complaint would be difficult to dismiss, particularly since the federal government has interpreted Title IX broadly and said that schools must try to prevent a hostile environment. This is not wholly hypothetical. Brandeis University found a male student responsible for sexual misconduct for looking at his boyfriend’s genitals while both were using a communal school shower. The disciplined student then sued the school for denying him basic fairness in its disciplinary process, and a federal court recently refused to dismiss the suit.
Continuing to have segregated bathrooms could also put schools in a bind on Title IX compliance. According to the federal government, a transgender girl who is told to use the boys’ locker room, or even a separate and private stall, instead of the girls’ facility, has a claim that the school is violating Title IX. A non-transgender girl who’s told she must share a locker room with boys may also have a claim that the school is violating Title IX. But would she not have a similar claim about having to share with students who identify as girls but are biologically male? Well, not if her discomfort and “emotional strain” should be disregarded. But this week, in a letter, dozens of members of Congress asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Education to explain why they should be disregarded. The federal government is putting schools in a position where they may be sued whichever route they choose. (Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, declined to comment on this issue.)
A reasonable point, yes? The response of a transgender Slate writer was typical of this pseudo-debate. Excerpt:
To comply with the “surprising” guidance, Suk posits, schools are left with two options: Either allow transgender students access to restrooms and other single-sex facilities in accordance with gender (as Title IX requires) or abolish single-sex facilities altogether. Those two options are radically different. Yet, Suk assesses them both on the same terms—and in the process reveals that she, like the lawmakers who have since filed lawsuits challenging the guidance, believes them to be effectively the same. In her view, transgender girls “are biologically male.” That is an offensive and inaccurate notion, the kind of error one would hope not to find on the website of the New Yorker.
But transgender girls are not “biologically male.” To reiterate the idea that a transgender girl is, really, “male,” as Suk does repeatedly in her piece, is to reinforce the very anti-transgender rhetoric that has been carefully crafted by opponents of transgender people. Suk and others might believe that a person’s genitals define their “biological” sex, but that does not make it so. Continuing to put forth that narrative without challenging it as an ideological position, as opposed to a fact, is extremely harmful.
Though Suk does not bother to complicate what she means by “biological sex” by juxtaposing gender as belief with sex as biology, she plays right into the hands of those invested in undermining the authenticity of trans identity. This idea that our bodies and our “biology” could somehow betray who we “really are” drives not only the anti-trans conversation playing out in state legislatures and courts, but also the tragic violence targeting trans people—particularly trans women of color, whose existence is all too often seen not only as inauthentic but also criminal.
Who is that hatey-hater Jeannie Suk to claim that having a penis and male chromosomes make one a biological male? Haaaaaaaaaaate!
The hate is spreading, it appears. Maya Dillard Smith, an African-American woman who heads up the Georgia ACLU, resigned her position over the organization’s stance on transgender rights. From Atlanta’s NPR station:
Smith says she wasn’t well-versed in transgender issues and wanted to learn more. But, she says there was no room for dialogue at the ACLU.
“It’s through communication that we develop empathy and understanding, and I think that our democracy requires us to allow for exchange of ideas, without people being labeled one thing or another,” Smith says.
“I have shared my personal experience of having taken my elementary school age daughters into a women’s restroom when shortly after three transgender young adults, over six feet [tall] with deep voices, entered,” she wrote.
“My children were visibly frightened, concerned about their safety and left asking lots of questions for which I, like many parents, was ill-prepared to answer,” she continued.
In a statement, she said that the ACLU has become “a special interest organization that promotes not all, but certain progressive rights.”
The “hierarchy of rights” the ACLU chooses to defend or ignore, she wrote, is “based on who is funding the organization’s lobbying activities.” She did not elaborate on the group’s funding.
In case you miss the point, Dillard Smith is a progressive black woman with a Harvard Law degree. And she quit her prominent job allegedly because the ACLU will not allow dialogue about the issue within its ranks. Dillard Smith has started a website to promote honest talk about women’s concerns.
Here’s a powerful video the Alliance Defending Freedom produced, featuring the stories of female survivors of sexual abuse, speaking out against these new bathroom laws. Note the second woman in the series, a communications director for a local YMCA who was forced to resign because she objected to the new trans bathroom policy. This is madness on its face, madness compounded by the fact that nobody is allowed to question any of this without being accused of bigotry:
Real Leni Riefenstahl stuff, I imagine the LGBT lobby will say.
Did you notice Maya Dillard Smith’s comment that the ACLU’s priorities are being driven by its donors? I did. A source who works on religious liberty lobbying tells me that the LGBT lobby is incredibly well-funded. This is a David vs. Goliath situation. I’m sure she and I agree on exactly nothing politically, but I honor the courage of Maya Dillard Smith for being willing to be David in this situation, to protect women and children.
When the shaming, shunning, and censorship around the transgender issue is so bad that even a black female ACLU lawyer resigns in protest, you know a line has been crossed.