Joe Biden has wasted little time grabbing rights from women and girls across America. On day one, he signed an Executive Order on ‘Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation’. This is being hailed as a pivotal moment for transgender rights. But it’s nothing of the sort.
The mention of ‘Gender Identity’ alone is enough to raise the alarm about the consequences of this proposal. Gender identity might be a popular concept right now, but it isn’t even clear what it means. Put simply, it’s a concept which refers to a person’s individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth. All too often, though, this rather circular definition is underpinned by sexist stereotypes involving dress, speech, and mannerisms.
Biden will be hailed as ‘progressive’ for this initiative, but don’t be fooled: gender identity is about a feeling that some people claim to possess. And when this feeling displaces biological sex as a means of dividing society we should all worry. After all, if we ignore sex, we ignore sexism.
Worryingly, too, this order could sweep away girls’ sex-based rights. The first paragraph tells us this:
‘Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.’
Let’s be clear about what this means in reality: boys who identify as girls could soon be able to use girls’ locker rooms, even if girls using those facilities feel uncomfortable about that. And in school sports, boys who identify as girls could soon be competing alongside girls, despite often having physical advantages, such as being stronger or taller than their peers.
This isn’t simply my interpretation of Biden’s order. The order cites a Supreme Court ruling – Bostock v Clayton County – to argue that sex discrimination laws covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Within 100 days, plans will need to be drawn up to ensure that boys who identify as girls are not discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity.
You can see where this is going. Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, was clinical in her analysis:
‘A new glass ceiling was just placed over girls.’Abigail Shrier
She’s right. And there is a good reason why ‘Biden Erased Women’ is now trending on Twitter. The very laws that were established to protect the rights of girls to single sex toilets, changing rooms and sports could soon be turned upside down by presidential decree. Legislation that was intended to protect the rights of girls to single-sex provision could now make single-sex services impossible. Assuming, that is, you agree with me that sex is determined by our biology and not by feelings in our heads, you’ll share in my view that this is bad news. If you disagree with me, then you may well think I am an appalling transphobic bigot.
This is not about me, however; it is about girls in America. If they want to avoid being labelled as transphobic – or worse – they will be expected to make room for boys who identify as girls. And not just in the locker room. Scholarships, bursaries, protected places in politics and public life: everything is up for grabs.
If I am charitable, I would say that Biden is trying to be kind to transgender people – like me – who do face discrimination simply because we do not conform to the expectations placed on our sex. The tragedy is that his naivety – that men and boys will not take advantage – has eclipsed the work that needs to be done, and is being done.
On Biden’s first day as president, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that Biden will soon reverse the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. Good. But protecting transgender people from discrimination does not require rights to be removed from others. That is where Biden’s Executive Order goes wrong. Indeed the resentment that is already brewing among women – and rightly so – eats into the acceptance that transgender people have hitherto enjoyed. If Biden is not careful he will end up pleasing nobody.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 21 January 2021: Biden’s trans rights agenda is bad news for women and girls.