Should gender identity determine which single-sex space people use?


Fact Box

  • “Gender” is originally a language term, used grammatically inside Germanic and Romantic languages (such as German, French, Spanish) that have gendered (masculine or feminine) words. The idea of this language term “gender” being applied to human sexuality first emerged in 1955 by Sexologist John Money when he coined the term “gender roles” [1].
  • Title IX of the Educational Amendments was enacted in 1972 to protect people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance [2]. 
  • In 2016, the Obama administration conflated the term “gender identity” with “sex” [3]. In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX. 
  • As of 2016, 10 cities and four states have passed legislation mandating all single-occupancy toilets in public spaces be labeled as unisex or gender-neutral [4].
  • Between 2017-2018, 55 acts of violence resulting in deaths were carried out against transgender and non-binary individuals (a significant number of these individuals were transgender women of color) [5,6].

Suzanne (No)

Sex-specific spaces are segregated due to anatomical differences between men and women, and for personal privacy, comfort and safety – especially for women. And it’s women who primarily bear the weight of legislation that counters their right to boundaries and protected spaces. Women are consistently the sex most vulnerable to (a specifically male) threat. Asking to keep their spaces separate from biological males doesn’t mean women believe transwomen are predacious. It’s feminists doing exactly what they’ve always done – standing for their sex-based rights, and the right to speak up and say “no” [1].

If being female is simply a state of mind, not based on anything tangible, then feminism (along with homosexuality and heterosexuality) doesn’t exist. Feminism requires distinction between sexes, but gender identity is described as an “innermost” feeling [2], something utterly undetectable from the outside. Furthermore, someone’s internal gender identity, a self-declaration of something unseen, cannot literally change their sex. They enter a woman’s space as the opposite sex, the sex they have. So, what about the feelings of girls and women who experience the nullification of their privacy, safety, and comfort? 

Discrimination, as chronicled in Title IX, applies only to immutable characteristics, such as race and biological sex. Inner feelings are not immutable characteristics, as people are not defined by their feelings. Legislation based on such vague, immeasurable, fluctuating, subjective standards of identity, which reinforce regressive, sexist stereotypes (i.e.: wearing a dress, makeup and having long hair makes up a woman), negates all the sex-based rights women have attained in their quest for equality. Ultimately, the problem is this: one individual’s rights, no matter how they identify, cannot supersede the individual rights of others [3]. That’s not how free societies function [4].

Mol (Yes)

Not allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms associated with their gender identity is a misguided attempt to delegitimize the trans experience.

The concern that this would lead to greater harassment of biological women equates transgender with sexual deviancy. Sexual perversion, harassment, and abuse can develop in anyone. The likelihood of that person also being trans is incredibly slim. According to a 2016 survey (in the U.S.), there are roughly 1.4 million individuals who identify as transgender compared to a national population of nearly 300 million people [1,2].

Second, transgender women are not men. Yes, they were born male (or possibly intersex), but transgender women have taken (or are taking) the necessary steps to reconcile their gender identity with their physical being. This process requires therapy and, depending on personal transition needs, hormone replacement therapy, possible legal name change, legal gender marker change, and surgery/ies. This takes significant time and money. Thus, if people are required to use the bathrooms corresponding to their sex rather than gender identity, trans men (people designated female at birth) who have yet to change their birth certificate but look entirely male would be required to use the women’s restroom [3].

Finally, the transgender community is at considerable risk, especially in spaces that do not have inclusive measures and anti-discriminatory laws. Out of nearly 28,000 transgender people surveyed, 46% of respondents were verbally harassed, 9% were physically attacked because of being transgender, and 10% were sexually assaulted between 2014-2015 [4]. Ultimately, people want to feel validated by their society and respected by their community. Not permitting someone access to facilities because they do not meet the generalized stereotype of gender is unjustified.

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