OPINION ‘Objective and Administrable’ definitions of sex and gender don’t apply to human beings.
It’s been made very clear that LGBTQI+ people and the Trump Administration’s agenda are natural enemies. However, the most troubling thing isn’t just a halt in the progress of securing equal rights for minorities, it’s the concentrated and very deliberate effort to push those rights back.
The New York Times recently broke a story about a memo it obtained from the US Department of Health and Human Services. The memo revealed the push to establish a legal definition of sex. This definition would ‘define sex as either male or female, unchangeable and determined by the genitals that person is born with’, this definition will supposedly be rooted in a ‘biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.’
“This proposed definition of sex not only seeks to erase the true identities of thousands of Americans, but is also deeply flawed in conflating, and confusing, biological sex and gender.”
Trump has recently described himself as a ‘natural scientist’ as a way of backing up his complete denial of climate change. So just as his government ignore plastic pollution, rising sea levels and extreme weather on the basis of science, they set out their definition to erase and ignore the very real, trans people living within the United States.
This proposed definition of sex not only seeks to erase the true identities of thousands of Americans, but is also deeply flawed in conflating, and confusing, biological sex and gender.
Let me break this down.
I’m not a scientist but my basic understanding is this: Biological sex is determined by the combination of chromosomes, worked out by an egg which always gives ‘X’ and a sperm with either gives ‘X’ or ‘Y’. The resulting combinations are usually – XX which is ‘female’ or XY which is ‘male’. Simple.
However, these two combinations of chromosomes don’t innately have any understanding of the cultural expectations that are placed on them. XX doesn’t know that they will be expected to take the role ‘a woman’, and similarly XY is unaware of their fate in performing the role of ‘a man’. These things are learned. Gender and the roles, attributes, likes and dislikes that societies have ascribed to these two combinations of genes are flexible with the passing of culture, tastes and civilizations.
We might take time to remember that during the storming of gay bars in the latter half of the 20th century, you could be arrested if you weren’t wearing enough items of clothing ‘appropriate to your sex’. So forget that jeans and a nice top outfit for tonight girls, because you would have been busted.
This is proof that our ideas about gender change and that it isn’t the same as biological sex.
So, this new definition, try as it might won’t ‘solve the problem’ of transgender identity for the American right wing because biological sex and gender identity are distinct. The only purpose it will serve will be to worsen the inevitable dangers that mis-gendering people presents. Which range from embarrassment and humiliation, to death. How many trans women have died in male prisons because the state refused to accept them as women?
If introduced, this definition of sex will not only erase people’s identities but also the slow, and hard won progress of trans activists and allies who will no doubt continue to fight harder than ever before as long as Trump is in the Oval Office.