President Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders (EO) on his first day in the White House. As promised, he signed the EO on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. This should come as no surprise as he campaigned on passing the Equality Act within his first 100 days in office.
He wasted no time.
This EO is causing me and a lot of my female colleagues a lot of anger, mostly because this is being thrust upon us through authoritative fiat. Forget the democratic process. Forget the gains that women have fought for and won over the last decades. Gains such as equal employment opportunities and gains from Title IX victories for equal opportunity in education and sports. From the EO:
“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports. Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes. People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination. All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”
For all his talk about our needing to follow the science, Biden fails his own standard by conflating gender and sex. Sex is the material reality of male or female. Humans are sexually dimorphic creatures, and sex is a fixed characteristic; it can’t be changed.
Of course, there are some small nuances such as when a child is born with rare deviations such as ambiguous genitalia, or Turner Syndrome, or Klinefelter Syndrome, but those are each mutations of the male–female binary; they don’t constitute an additional sex.
Gender, on the other hand, has nothing to do with science. It is a socially constructed way to categorize the way people perform their sex through fashion, mannerisms, and activities. We tend to buy little girls dolls and little boys trucks. Many of us know little girls that would be considered tomboys if you see them climbing trees, playing army, or preferring football over ballet. Similarly, there are little boys who prefer girly things and are not terribly interested in rough-and-tumble contact sports.
In this EO language, Biden argues that biological males should be able to use the girls’ bathroom and play on girls’ sports teams if they identify as little girls. And biological males, if they identify as women, should be able to pursue employment opportunities historically limited by sex to females.
So, for example, if you run a women’s health center or a shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence, you could be forced to employ a man who identifies as a woman. You also could be forced to care for transwomen in your women’s health center and your domestic violence shelters.
You can imagine how unsafe your patients or clients might feel being cared for by someone who is clearly a man, no matter how they dress or what name they call themselves. If you have suffered violence at the hands of a male partner or spouse, you can imagine how fearful women might be going to sleep at night knowing a man is living among them.
Biden means business with this EO:
“It is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. It is also the policy of my Administration to address overlapping forms of discrimination.”
Title VII, also referred to as The Civil Rights Act of 1964, was passed to prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. All incredibly good and necessary things at an important time in American history.
But the addition of gender or gender identity is hugely problematic as it will necessarily privilege men over women and boys over girls. Gender identity renders sex-based protections null and void, replacing them with what are essentially nothing more than protections for sex-role stereotypes.
This isn’t equality. This is legislating the discrimination of women to men who want to force you to treat them as women. I can see many lawsuits in our future.
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.