With recent talk of the Trump Administration’s plan to rescind President Obama’s transgender guidance – an expansion of Title IX allowing students to use whatever bathrooms, dorm rooms, or hotel rooms during field trips they say align with their gender identity – biology versus bigotry is back in the news.
Traditional Christians are obviously concerned about revisionist gender ideology, but it’s women who will truly suffer the consequences, whether they be Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, or Atheists. This was made clear at a panel discussion of “Biology Isn’t Bigotry: Why Sex Matters in the Age of Gender Identity,” presented by The Heritage Foundation and Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute on February 16, in Washington, D.C.
The timely discussion was moderated by Ryan T. Anderson, Senior Research Fellow at Heritage. Panelists comprised of some unlikely allies including Miriam Ben-Shalom, a teacher and activist who made history for being the first person to be reinstated to the military after being discharged from service for being openly lesbian; Kaeley Triller Haver, a rape survivor and political activist for women’s privacy and safety; Kami Mueller, the CEO of the Mueller Group renowned for defending North Carolina’s controversial privacy law (HB2); and Mary Lou Singleton, a midwife and a radical feminist who is an active member of the Women’s Liberation Front (WOLF).
Despite the spin that tries to trivialize the privacy and safety concerns of women, the panelists agreed male violence is at the center of the bathroom debates, not transphobia. “I don’t care if a biological man wants to put on a dress,” said Ben-Shalom. “If transwomen were really women, they would understand that the issue is male violence and they would sit down with us and civilly work together to find an acceptable solution to this problem.”
“I know what happens in those locker rooms,” offered Haver, who unexpectedly found herself in the center of the bathroom bill debate. After working for the YMCA for seventeen years, Haver’s employer asked her to draft talking points embracing a new policy opening up locker rooms and bathrooms on the basis of gender identity.
Last year, Haver authored the widely-read article, “A Rape Survivor Speaks Out About Transgender Bathrooms,” published by The Federalist. Haver shares her own story of being sexually assaulted as a child and the triggers and fears shared by victims like her that the transgender movement ignores. “When gender identity wins, women always lose,” Haver said. “It’s not because anybody up here has any bigotry in their heart, it’s because ‘women’ means something. And for too many of us it means we get silenced, and told to sit down and be quiet, and told that our needs don’t matter and unless we are willing to compromise those [needs] we are unloving.”
It seems like feminists would agree with Haver, but that’s not the narrative we hear from the collective women’s rights movement.
During the symposium’s Q&A, religious liberty attorney Jordan Lorence with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) asked panelists why they think feminists aren’t more hesitant to join the transgender movement. “It would seem to me that it attacks all of their basic assumptions that being a woman is an objective category and yet there seems to be just such quick caving in and agreement,” he said.
Singleton, the panel’s self-described “long-term Leftist” and feminist, admitted it is “forbidden discourse on the Left” for women to express their safety concerns regarding President Obama’s transgender guidance.
For Singleton, speaking against the transgender movement has been “vicious” and “people are afraid.” Singleton’s own nurse practitioner practice was targeted by a boycott campaign to her licensing board because she refused to honor the preferred pronouns of a serial child rapist. “This is the kind of insanity we are dealing with,” she said.
Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals who oppose the transgender movement are similarly silenced by members of their own platform. “I will tell you as a gay woman, as a lesbian, who’s been out since 1974,” interjected Ben-Shalom, “that there are a great many people who are lesbian, gay men, who are bisexuals who are not happy with this and wish the ‘T’ would just go away.” For Ben-Shalom, the issues loops back around to male violence, not bigotry.
And while threats to religious liberty present a concern, Singleton cautioned “people like at the ADF” from fighting gender ideology from purely a faith perspective. “We need to fight this on the basis of reason,” she encouraged. “Call this out as an atrocity, a human rights violation, and as something completely unreasonable that is being done to our children.”
Ben-Shalom, herself a “spiritual” Jew, slightly disagreed noting Orthodox Jews. “Reason does not exclude religion in this instance. Orthodox Jewish women would be very uncomfortable with this.”
The Heritage Foundation seems a strange sanctuary for a lesbian, radical feminist, and rape survivor, but last week it became just that. “I am in debt to the Heritage Foundation because they’ve offered us something that no organization from the Left did and that is a safe space to speak,” as Ben-Shalom stated. “Biology isn’t bigotry. Biology is the truth.”