Americans gave up the idea-or tried to, or pretended to-that there are certain characteristics and qualities that are essentially black and essentially white a long time ago. At the very least we can say that it would be considered wildly offensive and thoroughly idiotic to articulate ideas like that now. Yet somehow we don’t think twice about wanting to be ‘like a man’ or unlike a ‘girly-girl.’ As if those ideas even mean anything. Like which man? Iggy Pop? Nathan Lane? Jesse Jackson? Jesse Helms? It is a staggeringly unsophisticated way to think about being a human being, but smart people do it all the time.
Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs, p. 108
I received an email from Equality Maryland today!
It asked me to sign up for its Lobby Day in Annapolis in February.
Now, I like a good lobby day as well as the next person. I read on.
“While 2012 was an incredible year for Maryland’s LGBT communities and our allies our work is not done. Transgender Marylanders remain unprotected in state law from discrimination in employment, housing, places of public accomondation (sic) and credit.”
No, that’s not entirely true.
It *is* true that there is not a protected category of “gender identity” in the Maryland Human Relations Article (you can look this up for free here).
The Article does, however, prohibit discrimination based on sex.
The Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, the state agency charged with enforcing the Article, has taken cases from transgender people based on the ban on sex discrimination.
Indeed, this is not a new or novel theory. Advocates have argued for years that discrimination against transgender people is, in fact, sex discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sensibly arrived at this conclusion (finally) in the Mia Macy case.
I support this theory. I think it’s legally defensible and doesn’t demand an abrogation of the rights of another protected group (i.e., Women). Hooray for everyone!
Given this alternate (and viable) theory, why do transgender advocates continue to push legislation that enshrines sex stereotypes into law and obliterates Women-only space?
Why do Equality Maryland (chaired by Stephanie Bernstein, who you can reach at 301-229-6008 or SBernstein@urj.org) and Gender Rights Maryland (which has scant female representation) press on with the smoke and mirrors of NO RIGHT FOR TRANS PEOPLE?
They have built an impressive machine (off of the backs of hundreds of Gay and Lesbian people and our allies) to enact anti-discrimination protections that specifically creates the category of “gender identity.” They will push for legislation that will affirm, in law, that there are, in fact, “ways of being” that correspond (or not) to biological sex.
A coalition of liberal (yes, liberal) organizations will legislation to affirm stereotypical ideas about Men and Women. Instead of battling sex stereotypes as they should under a legal theory that posits that there ARE NO WAYS OF BEING that “correspond” to having a penis or a vulva, this coalition of liberal (yes, liberal!) organizations embraces a law that says there are ways of being “Man” or “Woman” – it’s just that sometimes, a Male-bodied person is going to “act like a Woman.”
I have no doubt that this legislation will eventually pass in Maryland. Maryland is a “liberal” state. Eventually, liberal will out. What I have significant doubt about is whether these liberal organizations – and the people who staff them – will ever understand that they decided to advance the “rights” of one oppressed group over the rights of another oppressed group.
Never in the history of “civil rights” has this happened, that an advancement of the rights of one group resulted in the loss of rights, a step backward, for another. What this legislation says, to Girls and Women, as that there ARE ways of being a Girl or a Woman, and that we are wrong for wanting Women-only space.
This is staggeringly unsophisticated.
And it will continue, until we are all “Equal,” and there is no more Title IX and there is no more VAWA funding and so on an so forth, and maybe if we just keep SAYING we are all equal, it will become a fact.
And for what, precisely? Given the vitality of a sex discrimination theory, why do we pursue this course?
I really appreciate the hard information you give us, and the measured tone. News we can use. 😉