How ironic that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the Equality Act during Women’s History Month. The bill’s proponents insist it’s meant simply to protect the rights of the LGBT community. But by embracing the ideology of “gender identity,” it treats womanhood as a mutable feeling rather than an immutable fact. This, in the end, will only increase the very real dangers and disadvantages women face.
Our female-only spaces — bathrooms, locker rooms and dormitories — are places where we expect to be free from the male gaze, naked male bodies and sexual assault. For the most vulnerable among us, privacy is the difference between recovery and renewed trauma.
Consider the homeless women served by the Downtown Hope Center in Anchorage, Alaska. They have survived rape, domestic violence and sex trafficking. Having a space of their own is a matter of mental health and personal safety. One woman said she would prefer to sleep in the woods rather than sleep next to a man.
Yet under a local gender identity ordinance, a man who identifies as a woman is suing the shelter for admittance. No one accuses him of being a sexual predator, but changing rules for admittance has consequences. After Britain passed the Gender Recognition Act, a convicted male rapist who claimed to be transgender was transferred to a women’s prison where he twice committed sexual assault. Why would we want to bring this to the U.S. with a new federal law?
Those who identify as transgender should be treated with dignity, respect and compassion. Many suffer from gender dysphoria. Their minds are so troubled that some even undergo incredibly painful procedures to change their bodies.
Redefining “sex” in the law won’t resolve this underlying distress, but it will erase protections for women.
Pascha Thomas’s daughter was only five years old when she became the youngest American victim of sexual assault due to a transgender bathroom policy. Her daughter became fearful not only of using public bathrooms, but of going to school.
Despite these avoidable tragedies, transgender activists accuse women of malice. The intimidation is shutting down discussions that could address concerns on both sides. And for women who are also sexual assault survivors, being told to stay quiet sounds all too familiar.
In the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, will Congress listen?
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the Virginia Military Institute it would have to become co-ed, she wrote that it “would undoubtedly require alterations necessary to afford members of each sex privacy from the other sex in living arrangements.” Justice Ginsburg’s opinion acknowledged a legitimate need for privacy and safety because it is women’s bodies, not our feelings, that can make us vulnerable.
Women fought hard to be heard so we could have our own spaces, but the Equality Act would roll back this progress.
We also fought hard for equal opportunities in academics and athletics. A year after Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments passed, only 300,000 girls participated in interscholastic athletics, compared to 3.6 million boys. The benefits of Title IX to girls are not limited to the playing field. The Girls and Sports Impact Report surveyed more than 10,000 girls and found a positive correlation between playing sports and increased confidence, body image, academic performance and personal relationships.
However, males who identify as females are starting to dominate women’s sports. High school sprinter Selina Soule described losing to male competitors as “demoralizing.” She and her teammates lost medals and scholarships as well as their morale.
All year long, but this month especially, we tell young women and girls that they can do anything. But if the Equality Act passes, it will put their dreams out of reach.
For them to enjoy the progress that their grandmothers, mothers and sisters fought for, we must stand up for the truth that being female isn’t a feeling or a social construct. It’s a biological fact.
• Emilie Kao is the director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, heritage.org.