The Transgender War on Women
The Equality Act sacrifices female safety in restrooms, locker rooms and even domestic-violence shelters.
By Abigail Shrier
It has become rightly fashionable to ridicule the idea of “safe spaces,” places where adults can hide and sulk like children avoiding ideas they find threatening. But women need actual safe spaces—not from intellectual challenge, of course, but from physical threat of harm from men. As a biological matter, most women are physically outmatched by men. Men are stronger and faster than we are, though we’re better able to tolerate pain and tend to live longer.
House Democrats introduced a bill this month that would outlaw safe spaces for women. The Equality Act—so called because, to put it charitably, Democrats excel at branding—purports merely to extend protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to people who are gay and transgender. Insofar as it would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants and employers from firing employees based on sexual orientation, it is no doubt long overdue.
But the bill goes further, proposing to prohibit discrimination based on “gender identity.” That claim directly competes with the rights of women and girls. Any biological males who self-identify as females would, under the Equality Act, be legally entitled to enter women’s restrooms, locker rooms and protective facilities such as battered-women’s shelters. This would put women and girls at immediate physical risk.
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Because courts typically interpret Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 according to the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, amending the latter would alter the understanding of the former. Biological boys who identify as girls would gain an instant entitlement to compete on girls’ teams in all 50 states. No more democratic discussion of accommodation, competing interest, sacrifice and fairness. No more debate about whether we should really allow girls’ scholarships and trophies to go to male athletes who were unable to excel on the boys’ teams. No more discussion about whether it’s right to allow, as we have, biological men to pick off championships in women’s and girls’ powerlifting, cycling, wrestling and running. These emergent public discussions would be locked away in a vault of civil rights.
Part of the reason women have been reluctant to object to these incursions into their hard-won rights has to do with embarrassment at acknowledging our biological differences, which some leading feminists have denied for years. But women are biologically different from men, as the chromosomes in every cell of our bodies readily testify. (How absurd that this is necessary to point out.) And one source of many of our physical differences resides in our glands.
Boys undergo a testosterone surge during puberty that is 10 to 40 times what girls experience, conferring lifetime physical advantages: vastly greater muscle mass, bone density, more fast-twitch muscle fiber, larger hearts and lungs—all things that provide absolute and unbridgeable advantage in strength and speed.
As long as women had their own safe spaces, such disadvantages never mattered much. But that may soon change. Not because women and men have changed, but because of the progressive left’s sudden rush to strip girls and women of separate facilities, sacrificing their rights to a group a notch or two higher on the intersectional pecking order. As Kara Dansky, media director of the Women’s Liberation Front, put it to me, the Equality Act would eliminate “women and girls as a coherent legal category worthy of civil-rights protection.” It would do so by redefining the category of “women” to include “women and those who say they are women”—which means women and people who aren’t women at all.
Activists typically counter this argument with the claim that men wouldn’t pose as men-who-believe-they-are-women unless they sincerely believed it. There are too many taboos, and the transgender life is too hard for anyone to want to fake it, they claim. But under the Equality Act, pretending to be transgender would sometimes be rational.
It doesn’t strain the human imagination to picture a male convict renaming himself “Sheila” and heading for the women’s prison. Nor would it surprise anyone if rapists began to “identify” as women—no physical alteration is required to change your gender identity—to gain free access to women’s showers. What pedophile wouldn’t want open access to girls’ bathrooms? And many a biological man with no place to sleep would prefer the quieter, gentler confines of a shelter for battered women to the dodgy enclosure of one for homeless men.
Are there sincere transgender people who ought to be accommodated with appropriate facilities? Of course. But their need, however real, doesn’t justify the immediate transfer of the hard-won rights of women and girls. No comparable sacrifice is asked of boys and men, who are unlikely to feel threatened by a biological woman in the restroom. No top male athletes are likely to lose competitions to biological women competing as men. Only women are made to sacrifice for the sake of this new “equality.” And what women and girls are being coerced to cough up isn’t an unfair privilege but a leveler they require.
The bill is unlikely to become law while Republicans control the Senate or White House. But this isn’t the first time the Democrats have introduced the Equality Act, and it won’t be the last. It’s a proposal worth taking seriously because it provides a glimpse of the left’s willingness to sacrifice women and girls to those wolves in sheep’s clothing—transgender or not—who would take advantage of them.
When Your Daughter Defies Biology
The burden of mothers whose children suffer from ‘rapid onset gender dysphoria.’
By Abigail Shrier
A reader contacted me under a pseudonym a few months ago. She turned out to be a prominent Southern lawyer with a problem she hoped I’d write about. Her college-age daughter had always been a “girly girl” and intellectually precocious, but had struggled with anxiety and depression. She liked boys and had boyfriends in high school, but also faced social challenges and often found herself on the outs with cliques.
The young woman went off to college—which began, as it often does these days, with an invitation to state her name, sexual orientation and “pronouns.” When her anxiety flared during her first semester, she and several of her friends decided their angst had a fashionable cause: “gender dysphoria.” Within a year, the lawyer’s daughter had begun a course of testosterone. Her real drug—the one that hooked her—was the promise of a new identity. A shaved head, boys’ clothes and a new name formed the baptismal waters of a female-to-male rebirth.
This is the phenomenon Brown University public-health researcher Lisa Littman has identified as “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” ROGD differs from traditional gender dysphoria, a psychological affliction that begins in early childhood and is characterized by a severe and persistent feeling that one was born the wrong sex. ROGD is a social contagion that comes on suddenly in adolescence, afflicting teens who’d never exhibited any confusion about their sex.
Like other social contagions, such as cutting and bulimia, ROGD overwhelmingly afflicts girls. But unlike other conditions, this one—though not necessarily its sufferers—gets full support from the medical community. The standard for dealing with teens who assert they are transgender is “affirmative care”—immediately granting the patient’s stated identity. There are, to be sure, a few dissenters. “This idea that what we’re supposed to do as therapists is to ‘affirm’? That’s not my job,” said psychotherapist Lisa Marchiano. “If I work with someone who’s really suicidal because his wife left him, I don’t call his wife up and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come back.’ . . . We don’t treat suicide by giving people exactly what they want.”
But giving in to patients’ demands is exactly what most medical professionals do when faced with ROGD. Like fashionable and tragic misdiagnoses of the past, this one comes with irreversible physical trauma. “Top surgery,” a euphemism for double mastectomies. Infertility. Permanent rounding of facial features or squaring of the jawline. Bodily and facial hair that never goes away.
Planned Parenthood furnishes testosterone to young women on an “informed consent” basis, without requiring any psychological evaluation. Student health plans at 86 colleges—including those of nearly every Ivy League school—cover not only cross-sex hormones but surgery as well.
ROGD-afflicted adolescents typically suffer anxiety and depression at a difficult stage of life, when confusion is at least as pervasive as fun, and there is everywhere the sense that they ought to be having the times of their lives. I spoke with 18 parents, 14 of them mothers—all articulate, intellectual, educated and feminist. They burst with pride in daughters who, until the ROGD spell hit, were highly accomplished, usually bound for top universities. Except for two mothers whose daughters have desisted, all insisted on anonymity. They are terrified their daughters will discover the depth of their dissent and cut them off. They are determined to use whatever influence they have left to halt their daughters’ next voluntary disfigurement.
Nearly every force in society is aligned against these parents: Churches scramble to rewrite their liturgies for greater “inclusiveness.” Therapists and psychiatrists undermine parental authority with immediate affirmation of teens’ self-diagnoses. Campus counselors happily refer students to clinics that dispense hormones on the first visit. Laws against “conversion therapy,” which purports to cure homosexuality, are on the books in 14 states and the District of Columbia. These statutes also prohibit “efforts to change a patient’s . . . gender identity,” in the words of the New Jersey law—effectively threatening counselors who might otherwise dissuade teens from proceeding with hormone treatment or surgery.
Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram and YouTube host an endless supply of mentors, who cheerfully document their own physical transitions, omitting mention of dangerous side effects and offering tips on how to pass as a man and how to break away from unsupportive parents. For anxious teens who tend toward obsession, these videos can be mesmerizing. Though the stars are typically pictured alone in a bedroom, they project exuberance and social élan. As one female-to-male YouTube guru who goes by “Alex Bertie” puts it: “Taking testosterone is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m so happy within myself. It did not solve all of my problems, but it’s given me the strength to make the most out of life and to battle my other demons like my social issues.”
Brie Jontry, a spokeswoman for Fourth Wave Now, an international support network for these families, is one of the two mothers who spoke on the record. She tells me ROGD teens often come from politically progressive families. Many of the mothers I spoke with say they enthusiastically supported same-sex marriage long before it was legal anywhere. Some of them describe welcoming the news when their daughters came out as lesbians. But when their daughters suddenly decided that they were actually men and started clamoring for hormones and surgery, the mothers begged them to reconsider, or at least slow down.
“If your kid went off and joined the Moonies, people would feel sorry for you, and they would understand that this is a bad thing and that your kid shouldn’t be in the Moonies,” one mother, a former leader of the pro-gay organization Pflag, said. “With this, I can’t even tell anybody. I talk to my husband, that’s it.” The couple have faithfully covered their daughter’s tuition, health-care and cellphone bills—even though she refuses to speak to them.
Under the influence of testosterone and the spell of transgression, ROGD daughters grow churlish and aggressive. Under the banner of civil rights, they assume the moral high ground. Their mothers take cover behind pseudonyms. As ROGD daughters rage against the biology they hope to defy, their mothers bear its burden, evincing its maternal instinct—the stubborn refusal to abandon their young.
More can found in this Lively discussion between Abigail Shrier and Candis Owens.